The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), on Monday, declared that nobody has the right to ask herdsmen to leave any part of the country.
The forum warned against ethnic profiling and urged all stakeholders to coalesce into a single force and tackle insecurity in the country.
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It said the order of the Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was misconstrued and misrepresented by a section of the media.
At a meeting with officials of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Akure, Ondo State, led by Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who doubles as chairman of the forum, all agreed to work together to give peace a chance.
While governors from the South West agreed that there was no quit order for legitimate herders, MACBAN assured cooperation in fishing out bad eggs among Fulani cattle herders.
Daily Trust reports that there had been claims and counterclaims in the last few days, including threats in the South West especially in Ondo and Oyo states over the spate of insecurity with accusing fingers being pointed at Fulani herders.
While some herders and their leaders were attacked in Oyo following an eviction order by a purported freedom fighter, Sunday Igboho, there were conflicting versions in Ondo.
Fulani leaders in the state had last week said they met with Governor Akeredolu and agreed to work towards exposing criminal elements in the forests, but a message on the Twitter handle of the governor gave a one-week ultimatum to “criminals masquerading as herders to vacate all Ondo forest reserves within one week.”
Our correspondents report that the ultimatum ended on Monday, a few hours to the meeting of the governors and MACBAM officials.
After the meeting, the governors’ forum said Akeredolu only ordered people “illegally occupying the forest reserves in the state to quit,” while advising genuine herders to register with relevant authorities.
Those in attendance included Governors of Jigawa, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar; Kebbi, Atiku Bagudu; Ekiti, Fayemi; Osun, Adegboyega Oyetola; Oyo, Seyi Makinde and Akeredolu of Ondo State.
In his opening remarks, Fayemi noted that Akeredolu had not ordered the Fulani to leave Ondo State.
“Many members of MACBAN were born in the South West.
“So, Akeredolu cannot ask Fulani to vacate Ondo State.
“The area concerned is the forest reserves and it is about registration and also to work in line with the law,” he said.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the governors including MACBAN officials reiterated that the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria remained the primary purpose of government as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“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.
“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,” the communiqué said.
The meeting further agreed that MACBAN is a peace-loving, law-abiding organisation, which does not harbour or condone criminals and reiterated its readiness to resolve contentious issues saying night grazing should be banned henceforth.
“MACBAN also suffers insecurity and kidnapping and thus desire peaceful coexistence.
“MACBAN is ready for any peaceful move by the states to engender security.
“There must be an enduring framework with MACBAN in a way that will help address security issues.”
The attendees concluded that a standing committee comprising of farmers, MACBAN and the government should be set up in each state (where they don’t exist) to ensure synergy and result.
Akeredolu, in his speech, said over 70,000 farmers had registered with the state government and urged genuine herders to do same.
According to him, the government must identify those in the forest to be sure criminality was tackled.
‘We welcome agreement’
In his reaction, MACBAN’s National Secretary, Usman Baba Ngelzarma, told Daily Trust that the association welcomed the agreements reached during the meeting.
“We are going to stay back in Akure and meet with the governor and state government officials to discuss the framework for the implementation of the terms of the agreement reached,” he said.
Meanwhile, a source at the meeting, who spoke in confidence, said the decision to issue an ultimatum for the vacation of forest reserves by the governor followed an intelligence report of the movement of a large number of strange people into the area.
“Recently, the Ondo State officials had stopped trailers load of strange-looking people moving into the state who could not explain where they were going and what was their mission in the state.
“The people were subsequently asked to turn back but were later found to have sneaked back into the forest.
“Intelligence reports showed that they had acquired arms and were carrying out criminal activities in the area,” he said.
Yoruba leaders kick
Yoruba leaders, on Monday, asked the six South West governors not to negotiate with the Miyetti Allah.
Speaking under the aegis of Yoruba World Assembly, the leaders said herders should not be allowed to remain in Ondo forests.
Secretary-General of YWA, Dr Victor Taiwo, who spoke on behalf of the group, which represents 15 other Yoruba entities, also warned the federal government against arresting Sunday Igboho, who on Friday chased away Fulani herders in Igangan Ibarapa, Oyo State after giving them a seven-day ultimatum.
Taiwo, who spoke with newsmen ahead of a security summit fixed for Ibadan, in February, called on all governors in the zone to see the issue as a collective struggle devoid of political colouration.
He said the same method used in 1840 when Fulani from Ilorin were allegedly repelled by combined Yoruba forces, drawn from all supporting towns of Oyo Empire, in line with the defence arrangement perfected by Yoruba leaders, led by Alaafin Atiba, should be adopted.
Taiwo said, “It is too late to cry when the head is off.
“We have had enough of Miyetti Allah people.
“We don’t think anything good can come out of it.”
‘Buhari should step in’
On its part, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), on Monday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to convene a meeting with state governors particularly those from the South West region to de-escalate rising tension across the country.
A statement signed by the Director, Publicity and Advocacy of the forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said: “Events in the South West are assuming national dimensions and only a national approach will provide short and long-term solutions.”
According to the statement, “NEF expressed optimism that the meeting would achieve its objective of finding lasting solutions to kidnapping in the region and legitimate Fulani would be allowed to enjoy their constitutional freedom.”
Police deploy in Hausa communities
There is relative peace and calm in the South West as residents go about their businesses without hindrances.
Anti-Riot and regular Policemen from Lagos State Police Command have been deployed to patrol Hausa communities in the state.
It was gathered that the decision to deploy security operatives to areas such as Ketu, Itire, Agege, Ijora and Alaba was to forestall any act of violence.
The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, on Monday held a security meeting with the newly trained Community Policing Special Constables drawn from all the local government councils in the state on the Ethics and Standard Operating Procedure of the Community Policing Project.
In Oyo, the Commissioner of Police, Mrs Ngozi Onadeko, while addressing the people of Ibarapa, assured them of their safety and maximum-security presence in the area.
She appealed to the youths and traditional leaders to allow peace to reign.
Except for some pockets of controversy in Ketu Communities of Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State over alleged connivance of soldiers with herdsmen to harass villagers in their communities, there has been no tension in the state over the quit notice order, Daily Trust reports.
The traditional rulers in the areas had last week claimed that the Fulani herders and soldiers numbering about 10, from the 35 Artillery Brigade, Nigerian Army, Alamala, Abeokuta, Ogun State, invaded Iselu, Ibeku, Agbon-Ojodu and Asa villages in Ketu communities and brutally meted out unwarranted assault against the villagers.
Our correspondent reports that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Edward Ajogun, had visited the communities to sue for peace and douse tension in the area.
There was calm in Sabo in Abeokuta, Ogun State where most Hausa and Fulani reside when our correspondent visited the area yesterday.
The Special Assistant to the governor on Inter-Ethnic Affairs, Hadi Sani, in a chat with Daily Trust, said, “We have a committee on farmers and herders and there has been a synergy.
“We are monitoring events as they unfold and all stakeholders are being engaged.”
The Sarikin Hausawa of Egbaland, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Hassan, said there was no cause for alarm, saying the leaders had always been proactive towards avoiding clashes in the state.
In Ekiti State, our correspondent observed relative peace as Hausa/Fulani traders were seen at Sha-sha Market going about their trade without tension.
Security remains our priority – FG
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a press conference on Monday in Abuja, assured that military and political leaders would remain focused on addressing the security challenges in the country.
On the deteriorating security situation in the South West, the minister said: “Yes, we have challenges in the South West, but I can assure you, it is being taken very good care of.”
Responding to a question on the quit notice to Fulani, he said: “We should lower the temperature and stop politicising security matters. We should stop bringing ethnicity or religion to purely security issues.
“Nigeria today is facing security challenges but it is by far better than what we met. What do I mean? Before 2015, bombings, suicide bombings by Boko Haram were taking place in at least 12 states.
“Nigeria today is facing security challenges but it is by far better than what we met. What do I mean? Before 2015, bombings, suicide bombings by Boko Haram were taking place in at least 12 states of the federation.
“And if you look at the number of lives that were lost before then and today, there is no doubt that yes, we have challenges, but we are much better than it was,” he said.
From Bola Ojuola (Akure), Abiodun Alade, Eugene Agha, Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan), Peter Moses (Abeokuta), Raphael Ogbonnaiye (Ado-Ekiti), Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo), Maureen Onochie, Idowu Isamotu & Faruq Shuaibu (Abuja)