Abuja, Akure — The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has backed the one-week ultimatum given by the Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, to herdsmen to vacate the forests in the state.
This is coming as farmers, forest guards and the members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state have staged a protest in support of the governor's decision to eject herdsmen from all the forest reserves in the state.
In a statement issued yesterday entitled: 'SMBLF warns FG on Herdsmen', the Forum frowned at the 'dangerous game' the federal government is playing over its overt support for Miyetti Allah to violate the lawful order of Ondo State Government banning grazing in its forest reserves.
The leaders of the forum in the statement jointly signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South-west); Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-east); Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-south), and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt) declared that under the federal system of government, which Nigeria practices, forest reserves are residual matters over which the federal government has no power over.
"We are supposed to be a Federal Republic, and forest reserves in states are fully residual matter to which the federal government has no business with.
According to the SMBLF, "The federal government statement by Garba Shehu that the governor of Ondo State lacks the full powers to decide on its reserves in spite of the Land Use Act that vests lands in states in the governors was a complete overreach and clear abuse of the constitution in a bid to elevate Fulani herders above the law."
The statement noted that "it was a continuation of the obsessive attachment to Miyetti Allah that made the president to instruct Governor Ortom of Benue State to go and live peacefully with killers after Miyetti Allah killed 78 citizens of the state in January 2019, and to prevent Ondo State from holding its rights on its reserves in the face of persistent killings of its people by herders occupying the reserves illegally."
The release stated further: "No decent or responsible governor would allow what the federal government wants for Fulani herdsmen. SMBLF, therefore, asks the federal government to withdraw the unjust diktat and allow Ondo State to enforce the law.
"We equally call on all state governors in all non-Fulani communities, who are being forced to live under Fulani terror, to take proactive measures to secure their people lawfully.
"Should there be any breakdown of law and order in any part of the country over this encouragement of Miyetti Allah against law and order, President Muhammadu Buhari will be held squarely responsible."
Meanwhile, farmers, forest guards and the members of the NURTW in Ondo State have staged a protest in support of Akeredolu's decision to eject herdsmen from all the forest reserves in the state.
The protest was also against the incessant abduction of their members allegedly by some gunmen suspected to be herdsmen.
The protesters, who stormed the streets of Akure in protest yesterday, carried placards with various inscriptions.
They insisted that if the current state of insecurity was not quickly checked, it might lead to chaos and famine in the state
The farmers said the vacation order to criminal herdsmen has given them hope of good harvest in the coming years.
Spokesman for the farmers, Mr. Gbenga Obaweya, called for relevant legislation to back up the order, saying the social and economic impact of activities of herdsmen could lead to severe famine if not checked.
Obaweya stated the vacation order was imperative to save farmers from famine.
A farmer, Mr. Raphael Eyimiton, alleged that herdsmen set his farm ablaze after eating his yams.
Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NUTRW), Comrade Jacob Adejo, said commercial drivers were no longer safe in the state.
Adejo said his members need protection as herders attack them with impunity as well as kidnap them.
Some of the Forest guards who spoke said they donated money to secure release of some of their members who were kidnapped by herdsmen.