Thursday, December 9, 2021

Akeredolu lacks powers to chase herdsmen from Ondo forests: Buhari

Seeking to drive down violent crimes, the governor earlier this week gave herdsmen a seven-day ultimatum to vacate Ondo forest reserves.

• January 19, 2021
Buhari and Akeredolu
Buhari and Akeredolu

President Muhammadu Buhari has faulted Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s order for herdsmen to vacate Ondo State forest reserves.

Mr. Akeredolu, on Monday, traced the recent killings and kidnappings in the state to the activities of herdsmen, while giving them a seven-day ultimatum to vacate the reserves.

He had also prohibited the “movement of cattle within cities and highways.”

Mr. Buhari, long accused of shielding herdsman atrocities across Nigeria, said the governor’s action was illegal and should not have been taken unilaterally without federal acquiescence.

Mr. Akeredolu’s “action could set off a chain of events which the makers of our constitution foresaw and tried to guard against,” Mr. Buhari said in a Tuesday night statement issued on his behalf by his media aide Garba Shehu.

The Nigerian Constitution, however, accorded a state governor as the absolute custodian of state lands, except in rare cases of federal acquisition for major construction like federal roads and railways. 

Ondo reserves, where law enforcement agencies believe a bulk of violent crimes linked to herdsmen is planned, have not been acquired by the federal government.

The president also said he had been consistent in condemning similar controversial ultimatum issued against citizens in other parts of the country.

“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,” the statement said. “Beyond law and order, the fight against crime is also a fight for human values which are fundamental to our country.” 

Messrs. Akeredolu and Buhari are both of the ruling All Progressives Congress, and it was unclear what the party’s position is on the governor’s directive. Widespread controversies have long trailed conduct of herdsmen activities in forest reserves, especially across the southern parts of the country.

Since Mr. Buhari assumed power in 2015, hundreds have been murdered by suspected herdsmen seeking to maintain a grip on their cattle grazing across vast lands of the country, despite having no clear permits to do so. Most of the lands forcibly taken over by herdsmen belonged to subsistence farmers. 

A federal proposal to construct the so-called ruga settlement, a row of mass housing for herders, was abruptly suspended by the president in mid-2019. No other solutions had been proposed by the government ever since.

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