The Ondo State government on Tuesday described the statement credited to the presidency on the directive given herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserves as a brazen display of emotional attachment.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, had in a statement titled: “In tackling crime, Ondo State Government will not act outside the constitution,” issued on Tuesday night, condemned the ultimatum given the herdsmen to vacate the Ondo State forest reserves by the state government.
He, however, said the presidency had carefully monitored events occurring in the state and urged the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue their dialogue with the state government for a good understanding that would bring to an urgent end the nightmarish security challenges.
He said: “It 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 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.”
In its reaction to the remarks, the Ondo State government in a statement issued by the state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, insisted that such attachment is inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
According to Ojogo, the presidency statement had stated “unambiguously, the position of the Federal Government on the matter.
He said: “The Ondo State government did not ask Fulani to leave the state. The governor said herdsmen who are unregistered should leave our forests. The statement from Garba Shehu is a brazen display of emotional attachments and it’s very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“We need clearly defined actions on the part of the Federal Government to decimate the erroneous impression that the inspiration of these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen is that of power. Our unity is threatened, no doubt.
“It (statement) states in a breath that the governor fights crime with passion while it is prevaricating on the atrocities. The question is, are the herdsmen who are perpetrating murder, kidnapping, and robbery more important than government and even the Federal Government in this case? Ethnic nationality and activism on the part of anyone hiding under the presidency or federal government is an ill wind.”
The commissioner had in an earlier statement declared that there was no going back on the state government’s directives for herdsmen to vacate all the forest reserves in the state.