From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, at the weekend briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on happenings in his state, calling on the Federal Government to take decisive action to rid the nation’s forests of criminals launching attacks on citizens from there.
Speaking to newsmen after a meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Abiodun said though there are people legitimately residing in the forests, they have also become the habitation of criminals stoking ethnic tensions around the country.
He also stressed the need of Serikis (local northern traditional leaders) to keep registers of farmers to determine when undesirable elements infiltrate their ranks.
The governor further urged the Federal Government to initiate concrete steps to tighten the nation’s borders to prevent influx of foreigners who engage in criminals activities and flee to their countries afterwards.
“We’ve enjoined our serikis and our farmers to keep a list of those that live on their farms in registers so that when strangers come in, they will know who are strangers among them.
“We hope the Federal Government will now look at how to better secure our borders so that people don’t just cross our borders, cause crimes and run away.”
“Then these forests that we now see that are places that continue to harbour criminals, we must do something about it.
“We know there are people that live in the forest legitimately, but there are so many people that live in those forests illegitimately. We must definitely do something about those forests.
“These are some of the things that we found to have aided this violence and escalated it and we believe that if the right steps are taken, we can manage the situation and we can live together as brothers and sisters, as we’ve always lived for so many years.”
Abiodun blamed the increased in tensions on ethnic profiling of criminals, noting that people in the state find it difficult to distinguish between peaceful Fulani herders and criminal cattle rustlers.
“I must say that the Fulani have lived with us in Ogun State for hundreds of years. The Seriki Fulani from that particular corridor speaks better Yoruba than I do because his father was born there.
“Part of the problems we realised we had was ethnic profiling, criminals are criminals and criminals abound everywhere. There are criminals in Yorubaland, there are criminals in Igboland, there are criminals in the Niger Delta, there are criminals in the north and we see that even in the north, in the northeast, in the north-central, we see that there are criminals activities.
“The governor of Niger State spent a night with me, by the time he got back to Niger State, 50 people had been kidnapped and we cannot be profiling them based on ethnic grounds and be saying, ‘oh the Fulani have kidnapped Fulani or Hausa men in Niger.’
“Our people have had a problem with drawing a line between peaceful Fulani people, who are traditionally herdsmen, and bandits who are cattle rustlers, who will steal cattle, take the cattle to farmlands belonging to people, attack them. Now farmers and indigenes now carry out counter attacks against innocent people that have been living with us.”
Abiodun also spoke of the efforts of his administration to ease ethnic tension and build trust among residents, saying: “We rose up from that stakeholders meeting with a few conclusions, one of which was to form a joint stakeholders committee that’s comprised of the Fulani, the herdsmen, the farmers and government. That has since been put in place. That committee is going to be sworn in, I think sometime this evening.