TENSION is mounting across Ondo State as the seven-day deadline Governor Rotimi Akeredolu gave Fulani cattle herdsmen to vacate the local forests expired last night and the two sides are yet to thrash out an acceptable agreement.
Last week, Governor Akeredolu asked all Fulani herdsmen operating in the forests of Ondo State to leave as they are not registered and they engage in criminal acts such as kidnapping, armed robbery and violent crime. According to the governor, anyone not registered as a farmer or pastoralist has no business operating within Ondo State.
However, the development has fuelled tension as President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu has condemned the ultimatum, saying no governor has the right to expel Nigerians from his state. Also, the Northern Elders’ Forum directed the Fulani herdsmen to disregard the notice to quit forest reserves in the state.
However, Ondo State government said it is within its rights to ask all farmers in the state to register and those who do not do so, will not be allowed to operate. Jimoh Dojumo, Governor Akeredolu’s special adviser on security matters, said the enforcement would not be like a war but it would strategically carried out.
Mr Dojumo added: “We have made some preparations ahead the enforcement but we don’t want it to be like we are fighting a war. What I will say is that we are strategising and we would not like to disclose our strategy for security reasons.”
There has been some apprehension among the indigenes of Ondo State as local people expressed fears that the enforcement might lead to crisis between the government officials and the Fulani herdsmen. There are also fears that the Oyo State scenario, whereby the herdsmen have been asked to leave the Ibarapa North Local Government Area, could play out.
Today, the South West Governors Forum will meet with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban), alongside other Yoruba and Fulani groups. Bodies expected to be represented at the meeting include the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and its northern counterpart, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF).
ACF publicity secretary Emmanuel Yawe, said the group’s focus was peace, while Afenifere stated that one side should not regard itself as the master of others in the Nigerian federation. Later today, all the sides will meet in Akure, the Ondo State capital, in a bid to find lasting solutions to the incessant killings, kidnapping and crises between herdsmen and farmers across southwest Nigeria.
Alhaji Bello Garba, the chairman of the Ondo State Macban chapter, said the national leadership of the association had arrived in Akure in preparation for the meeting. He added: “The national chairman of Macban is in town now and I cannot talk about what we want to discuss at the meeting now but I can assure you that we are going to address the press after the meeting.”
Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, added: “We are for peace meeting anytime and we advise both parties to be sincere. We must stop this issue of any side behaving as if we are in a master-servant union as we are equal citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”