By Salim 

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concerns over the recent seven days ultimatum given to Fulani herdsmen by Ondo State Government, saying Governor Rotimi Akeredolu doesn’t have that power to ask them to leave the forests in the state.

On Monday, January 18th, Mr Akeredolu gave the herdsmen seven days ultimatum to quit all forest reserves in Ondo.

In a statement signed by senior Special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, Buhari warned the governor about given such ultimatum to citizens, saying they also have the right to move around the country as enshrined by the Nigerian constitution.

“The Presidency has been keenly monitoring events occurring in Ondo State and the “orders” by the government of the state, “asking herders to vacate the forests in seven days,” said Garba Shehu.

“What is clearly emerging, is a lack of consistency in messaging which in turn leads to various contradictions regarding accuracy and the intent behind the message. There is little to be said other than to call for restraint on both sides and urge the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue their dialogue for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has fought crime in his state with passion and commitment, greater sensitivity and compassion for the four years he has run its affairs and, in our view, will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals,” added Garba Shehu .

He further said “If this were to be the case, rights groups will be right in expressing worries that the action could set off a chain of events which the makers of our constitution foresaw and tried to guard against.

We want to make it clear that kidnapping, banditry and rustling are crimes, no matter the motive or who is involved. But to define crime from the nameplates, as a number of commentators have erroneously done- which group they belong to, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith is atavistic and cruel”.

“We need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion—to isolate the criminals who use this interchange of arguments to hinder law enforcement efforts as the only way to deal effectively with them,” he continued.

Garba Shehu also said President Buhari swore to defend the life and properties of every citizen through constitution and has been speaking about look-alike issues like IPOB ultimatum to northerners and the recent call by Sokoto forum who also asked Bishop Kukah to leave the state after his comment earlier this month.

“The President, who swore to defend the constitution has spoken against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in asking citizens of Northern origin to leave; he did not spare the group based in Sokoto, ‘Muslim Solidarity Forum,’ which asked the Bishop of Sokoto to leave and is prepared to do all that the law permits to protect citizens all over the country in their choice of where they wished to reside and are treated as equal citizens.

“The government of Ondo, and all the 35 others across the federation must draw clear lines between the criminals and the law abiding citizens who must equally be saved from the infiltrators. Beyond law and order, the fight against crime is also a fight for human values which are fundamental to our country,” he concluded.

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