The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has asked herdsmen in Ondo state to disregard the directive of the state government to leave the Forest Reserves.
Naija News had reported that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu gave herders a seven-day ultimatum to leave the forests and come out to register with the government.
In a statement via his Twitter handle on Monday, Akeredolu said that criminals have turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom, and carrying out other criminal activities.
Reacting to the ultimatum, the Spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, advised the herders not to leave the forest, but to continue with their activities.
In a statement on Wednesday, Baba-Ahmed described the governor’s ultimatum as provocative and unhelpful, saying the Fulanis will not accept any unfair treatment.
The forum spokesman added that the herdsmen will resist moves to be tagged as criminals, asking the governor to identify, isolate criminals and go after them.
He, however, asked governor Akeredolu to reverse the ultimatum given to herders to vacate forest reserves in the state.
Baba-Ahmed said: “Northern Elders Forum is shocked at reports that Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is asking a Fulani community to leave its lawful location, in addition to other restrictions on activities of Fulani people who have lived in the State for a long period.
“Governor Akeredolu is a senior lawyer who should know that the constitution does not give him the power to deny any Nigerian the right to live where he chooses if he does not break the law in the process. His duty to protect and improve the security of citizens and all people in Ondo State cannot be challenged.
“No Nigerian has the power to take punitive action against citizens on political grounds. The forum believes that the action of the governor is provocative and unhelpful.
“If there are criminal elements among the Fulani who live in the state, the governor should take appropriate steps to identify them and deal with them. Similarly, the Fulani do not enjoy legal immunity in any part of Nigeria.
“The Fulani are subject to all laws and regulations and must respect the communities with which they live and interact. What is dangerous and unacceptable is to profile and demonize the Fulani and treat him outside the laws of the land like all other Nigerians.
“The Fulani community in Ondo state should stay put where they are and continue to be law-abiding.
“We call on Governor Akeredolu to rescind his order on the Fulani, or clarify his position in the event that he is misunderstood. For the avoidance of doubt, no Fulani anywhere in Nigeria will accept unfair and illegal treatment just for being Fulani.”