The Presidency has cautioned Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, and 34 other state governors against evicting non-indigenes particularly Fulani herdsmen residing within their territories, arguing that such action was a clear violation of the 1999 constitution.
It added that the state governments and leadership of the Fulani communities should continuously engage in dialogue that could ensure a good understanding that would always bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the states.
This came barely 24 hours after Akeredolu gave herders a seven-day quit notice to leave the Ondo metropolis and its forest for allegedly aiding kidnapping and other criminals activities across the state.
Through a statement released by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Tuesday, the Presidency stressed that not all herders in Ondo, Oyo, and other states engaged in crime and criminalities, saying, there is little to be said other than to call for restraint on both sides.
“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 that are fundamental to our country.
“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.
“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 that 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”, the presidency added.
It recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, 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.