By Chinelo Obogo and Lukman Olabiyi
A former vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, has defended Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu’s directive to herdsmen to vacate Ondo State forests saying that there is nothing constitutionally wrong tackling the activities of unregistered herdsmen, being the Chief Security Officer of the state.
Ubani told Daily Sun that the governor has the constitutional rights to protect his people and do everything within his power to guarantee safety of life and property within the state.
“Based on current situation of insecurity in the state, the governor only asked the genuine herdsmen doing legitimate business in the state to register and gave ultimatum to unregistered herdsmen to vacant the state. So, I see no reason why that should become an issue between the governor and the Federal Government. Akeredolu has not infringed on anybody’s constitutional rights,” Ubani said.
Also reacting, human rights lawyer, Abdul Mahmood said: “Every lawyer who specialises in environmental/conservation/forestry laws would laugh off the statement of Garba Shehu. If he had read the 1999 Constitution Forestry Law of Western Nigeria, as applicable in Ondo state, National Forestry Policy 2006, or paid attention to the management of our forests since 1952, he would have known that only governors, pursuant to state laws, have the powers to direct, manage and protect forest and forest resources of their states. He should’ve known, even at the national level, that the power of the Ministry of Environment can only be exercised over policy.
However, is Akeredolu justified in ordering herdsmen out of Ondo forests? My answer is yes.
The order has not deprived the herdsmen the right to move freely and to reside in Ondo state. The right to acquire and own immovable property is guaranteed by S.43 of the Constitution 1999.”
Yoruba organisation, Afenifere, urged “all true- born” Yorubas and governors in the South-West to stand behind Akeredolu as it knocked the presidency for opposing the Ondo State governor.
In a statement issued by its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said: “The intervention by what we mistakenly call the Federal Government of Nigeria, on behalf of marauding Fulani in Ondo State against the lawful government in that state, did not come to Afenifere as a surprise as it is in line with non–pretence by this regime that it represents only Fulani interests against those of Yoruba, Igbo, Junkun, Ijaw, and other tribes in Nigeria.”
Similarly, an Osun State based socio-political movement, Tiwa N’ Tiwa LOsun, said the federal government’s reaction to Akeredolu’s directive to unregister herdsmen has proved that there is nothing like one Nigeria.
The director of operations of the group, Sola Fanawopo, in his reaction, said: No one can go to any part of the North and assert a right to any piece of land simply because he is a Nigerian, except he lawfully purchases same. The Fulani’s claim of being entitled to land in any part of Nigeria is borne out of a mentality that is difficult to understand. How on earth can they claim right to the forest reserves in Ondo State, notwithstanding the atrocities being perpetrated by Fulani herders and kidnappers in the forests?
“The governor of Ondo State has a responsibility to protect his people, and ordering a trespasser to vacate a land illegally occupied is a way to maintain peace.”