Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has accused the media of spreading fake news on the vacation order issued by Ondo helmsman Rotimi Akeredolu to herdsmen in the state’s forest reserves.
Governor Akeredolu had last week given herders occupying the forest reserves seven days to leave following reported cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes in the state.
The action of the governor had generated some support and rumpus while the federal government asked Akeredolu to immediately rescind his decision.
Following the expiration of the ultimatum, the governors forum on Monday called a dialogue meeting with members of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).
Speaking at the meeting held in Akure, chairman of the forum and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi said Akeredolu’s order was misconstrued and misrepresented by the media.
Dr. Fayemi stated that Akeredolu only ordered those occupying the state’s forest reserves illegally to quit, stressing that Fulani herdsmen were not asked to leave.
He explained that the security challenges facing the country are not peculiar to one tribe or religion. He enumerated the various security challenges facing each region.
According to him: “The security and welfare of the people of Nigeria is the primary purpose of government as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended.
“The stakeholders are committed to the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria. Insecurity is a national challenge and not peculiar to any tribe or region but must be addressed by the cooperation of all.
“The order of the Ondo State Governor was misconstrued and misrepresented by a section of the media. He only ordered those occupying the Forest Reserves in Ondo State illegally to quit.
“Criminals should be apprehended and punished, no matter their origin, class or status. Security agencies have been trying to stem the tide of criminality in the country but must step up their efforts in the fight.
“There is the need to build a partnership for peace and security with MACBAN and jointly wage war against criminality.
No one had sent anyone away from any state or region but all hands must be on deck to fight criminality. MACBAN is a peace-loving, law-abiding organization which does not harbor or condone criminals.”
Affirming the ban on night grazing and under-age herding, Fayemi said the members of MACBAN also suffer insecurity and kidnapping and desire peaceful coexistence.
He said MACBAN was ready for any peaceful move by the states to boost security. He emphasized that fake news was another issue that worsens insecurity.
“There must be an enduring framework with MACBAN in a way that will help address security issues. That free-range grazing must be stopped to avoid conflicts between the farmers and the herders.
“Strengthening an alternative security arrangement and make them complementary to the mainstream security agencies in Nigeria.
MACBAN should embrace and be committed to modern breeding process by creating grazing reserves and practice ranching to prevent cattle roaming about,” he remarked.
According to him, a standing committee comprising farmers, MACBAN and the government would be set up in each state to ensure synergy.
He added that the government would create economic opportunities for the people and plug loopholes for criminalities in the country.
In his remarks, Akeredolu said Ondo was facing serious security challenges, noting that there was a need to work together to curb the unwholesome activities of criminal elements in the state.
The meeting attended by the governors of Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kebbi and Jigawa was also attended by the heads of security agencies including the Amotekun Corps.
In a related development, two Fulani leaders have apologized for the alleged crimes committed by some herdsmen in Ibarapa area of Oyo State.
The apology was tendered by the Seriki Fulani of Igboora, Alhaji Idris Abubakar, and his counterpart in Eruwa, Alhaji Sule Mohammed.
The two leaders asked for forgiveness from those offended, adding that they were ready to facilitate peaceful coexistence among the ethnic groups in Ibarapaland.
They reportedly spoke during a town hall meeting attended by the state police commissioner, Mrs. Ngozi Onadeko, and a government delegation led by Governor Seyi Makinde’s Special Adviser on Security, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, a retired commissioner of police.
Traditional rulers in the area also attended the meeting. The leader of the Fulani in Igangan, where Chief Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, led some supporters to flush out Fulani herders last Friday, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, was absent from the meeting.
The apology came after the Secretary of Igangan Development Advocates, Lawal Akeem, said the people were tired of the antics of Alhaji Abdukadir, whom he accused of complicity in different criminal cases that had been recorded in the town.
He also said the community had been forced to pay about N50 million in ransom for different cases of kidnapping, accusing herdsmen of regularly vandalizing farms and raping women.
Another youth in the town, Taiwo Adeagbo, said no fewer than 15 women had been raped in recent weeks.
A member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Peter Ojedokun, also told the delegation that Ibarapa had been peaceful, but that the peace was shattered recently when Fulani herders started attacking members of the community on their farms, kidnapping persons and committing other crimes.
Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of Ibarapa North-West Local Council Development Area, Okediji Samuel Olusegun, also corroborated the allegations leveled against the Seriki Fulani of Igangan.
He said the Seriki was found culpable in the series of security breaches in the area.
The police top officers in the state and the Oyo government officials toured the troubled spots of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun areas where they conducted on-the-spot assessment of the tension-soaked communities.
Among the places visited were Igangan, Tede and Ago Are communities.
Onadeko sued for peace, while also declaring the readiness of the police to embark on thorough investigation of criminal cases to ensure justice for victims of kidnapping, robbery and rape.
Owoseni appealed to community leaders, youths and Hausa-Fulani residents to eschew violence and live in peace.
He told the people to be vigilant and ensure they identify the criminal elements among them for prosecution by the police, declaring that no one should take laws into their hands.
He also debunked insinuations that the government of Governor Seyi Makinde had abandoned the people to their fate, disclosing that, at least, 51 suspected perpetrators of kidnapping, rape and banditry from Oke Ogun axis were currently in police net.
He said government would ensure that justice prevails in the cases involving those arrested, adding, however, that the people ought to remain vigilant.
“If you see something, say something,” Owoseni counseled residents of the visited communities.
The delegation also visited the razed home of the Seriki Fulani in Igangan where it assessed the extent of damage and promised thorough investigation.
Onadeko said: “We have come to assess and listen to you over the incident that happened.
I want to appeal to every one of us to be calm and ensure there is peace. If there is no peace in the community, there won’t be growth and development.
“I want to appeal to the youth. We have listened and they have interpreted all your complaints and I want to say you should not spoil your case by using force.
We are a new team. Bring out all the cases you have; put them in an orderly manner and we will make sure that justice is done.
“So, I want to enjoin all of you to be peaceful and live with one another in a peaceful manner. If we live in peace in this community, we should be able to identify kidnappers, robbers, and rapists.
“It does not matter where you come from – whether you are from Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa.
Actually, we have the good and bad ones. Criminality is not only ascribed to a particular ethnic group; it cuts across all the ethnic groups.
“So, if we don’t come together with one voice, how are we going to fish out all these people? Please, be calm. Cooperate with the police and other law enforcement agencies and we will make this place secure for everyone, irrespective of where you come from.
“I want to assure you that all the cases you brought up, a thorough investigation will be done on them and you will see that justice will be delivered.
“We will be having more of this interactive session and consultative gathering so that we will be able to sit down, talk and iron things out together without resorting to violence which does not pay.
“Please, don’t take laws into your hands. Just tell us. Let us have peace and everything, by the grace of God, will be okay for all of us.”