Herders Don’t Need Your Consent to Reside in Forests, Bauchi Governor Mohammed Tells Ondo Governor Akeredolu

Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, on Friday said citizens do not need the permission of his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, to live in the forests in the South-west state.

The Bauchi governor, who spoke on a television programme, was apparently referring to herdsmen accused of sundry crimes such as kidnappings, killings, rape, amongst others, by Akeredolu, and ordered to vacate the state’s forest reserves

The Bauchi governor added that Nigerians do not need the consent of any governor to reside anywhere in the country.

Akeredolu’s quit notice generated outrage with the Presidency and some governors, including Mohammed, saying the governor lacked the right to issue a vacation notice to herders in the state.

On Friday, Governor Mohammed said: “Land is in the hands of the state and federal governments in trust, but Nigerians don’t need the permission of governors or the federal government to settle anywhere. You don’t need the permission of the governor of Bauchi or the governor of Ondo to be in the forests of Ondo if you choose to live in the forests, because under Section 41 of the constitution, you are free to settle anywhere.”

The Ondo State governor had also criticized Mohammed for saying herders have the right to bear AK-47 rifle for self-protection.

But the Bauchi State governor said: “When we mention AK-47, it is a figure of speech; the issue is protection, self-help. You must protect yourself. It is a figure of speech to show you the despondence, the desperation and frustration, and the agony that this particular person is exposed to by his own people, by his own tribe, and by other tribes who have all seen him as a criminal and therefore, he has the inalienable right to protect himself.

“The Fulani man is so exposed, dehumanised and demonised. He is being seen as a bandit and so anywhere he goes, his commonwealth which I call his cows are being taken and rustled and sometimes they are fined beyond your imagination and then he has no option than to protect himself.

“It may not be an illegal carriage, it may be legal. He may also register and carry it to protect himself. They have no option but to protect themselves. The issue is self-protection. There must be some sort of approval. What I am saying is not to legalise the carriage of AK-47. I must be understood.

“Nigerians must stop profiling Fulani herdsmen as criminals because of the nature of their job. We also have so many vigilante groups in Nigeria, even at the different levels of government, sub-regional groups and sub-national.”

Meanwhile a group of security outfits, operating under the umbrella of South-West Security Stakeholders, has advised Obas and traditional leaders of Yorubaland to call upon them whenever there was threat to the life of any Yorubaman.

The various security outfits in this stakeholder group are: Odua Peoples Congress, Agbekoya, Hunters Group, Isokan Ile Yoruba, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Ibarapa Group, and Community Society Awareness Initiative.

Their leaders made the call to the Yoruba elders in a communiqué they issued at the end of a strategic meeting held in Lagos yesterday, stating that they “noted the exasperation inherent in the statement of Chief of Defence Staff of the nation calling on Nigerians to defend themselves. This is clearly an official endorsement of self-defence.”

The leaders said they reached this decision after a review of recent security concerns in the nation generally and Oodua land in particular, adding that they shared the concern of the people in general and of prominent Nigerians, especially about the security situation in the land.

According to them, “The meeting feared the situation if not addressed signals a grievous national crisis. The meeting, therefore, called on the government to quickly arrest the apparent descent into anarchy.”

Also present at the meeting were: a leader of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, Gbonka Gboyega Adejumo, Bashorun Akin Osuntokun, Sola Lawal, and Chief Olumuyiwa Okunowo.

The communiqué stated: “The meeting re-emphasised the call for a return to pure federalism, which was the political arrangement endorsed by leaders of the nation at independence. This will allow various nations in the country to take proper control of their affairs including security.

“We align with the call of the governors of South-west that President Buhari should prove his innocence in the carnage being perpetrated by herders by not only unambiguously condemning the nefarious acts but also take clear steps to exterminate it.

“The meeting stressed the point that multinational states such as Nigeria must be built on respect for different human components making up the sovereign nation.”

Charles Ajunwa, Chuks Okocha, Bennett Oghifo in Lagos

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