The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), yesterday, expressed misgivings over what it described as interferences by the Federal Government on the internal security issues in Ondo State, following the quit notice issued by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to “criminal herders” to either vacate the state forest reserves or face the full wrath of the law.
MBF also said it was worried at the order issued by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, for the arrest of Mr. Sunday Adeyemo, aka Igboho, over his alleged role in the violence that took place at the weekend in Oyo State.
National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said Akeredolu’s eviction order to the herders was a bold decision to protect lives and property of citizens threatened by the activities of bandits that have now found safe havens in the forest reserves in the state.
Bitrus said that as the umbrella organisation representing ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt region, MBF was in total support of ridding Ondo State of bandits and criminal elements as contained in the ultimatum handed down on criminal herders by the governor.
“As the Chief Security Officer of Ondo State, Governor Akeredolu is rightly entitled to protect citizens that are now under constant siege by criminal elements.
“For those who insist that the quit order on criminal herders amounts to infringing the citizenship rights of Fulani, the Forum wishes to reiterate that Akeredolu’s quit order is to unregistered herders occupying the forests and involved in kidnappings and banditry.
“The MBF wishes to state that it is unacceptable for the Federal Government to interfere in the genuine efforts deployed by Governor Akeredolu to end the ceaseless abductions of peaceful citizens for ransom.
We find it inscrutable for the Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration to insist on defending criminals whose major preoccupation is unleashing violence and terror on peaceful communities.
“What the Federal Government should do now is to assist Akeredolu and other state governors to flush out these criminals and end the culture of lawlessness ripping across not only Ondo, but also other states where these outlaws have turned our nation’s forest reserves into safe harbours for their crimes,” he said.
The Forum recalled that in the height of the killings and devastations that trailed the activities of herders in many communities in Benue State, President Buhari had called on the people to return home and learn to live with their neighbours in peace. In clear rejection of such an advice, Bitrus said the Federal Government got it wrong in Benue State and was also making the same mistakes in the current crisis in Ondo State.
“When neighbours decide to turn themselves into agents of terror on their fellow neighbours who are peace-loving, then, such neighbours are no longer neighbours, but outlaws that must be arrested and be made to face the law.
“The MBF wishes to state that the only way to end these vicious assaults by these bandits is to completely flush them out of our nation’s forest reserves. We cannot continue to play the ostrich as Nigerian communities continue to suffer bloodshed due to increasing waves of vicious and unprovoked attacks on defenceless citizens by these vicious brigands.
“With many states, especially in the Middle Belt Region, now under the menace of these outlaws, we call for both the Federal Government and the states to adopt the policy of disranching as means of ending the security challenges posed by these criminal herders.
We call on state governors to emulate Akeredolu’s quit order in order to cleanse Nigeria’s forest reserves of vicious brigands. In this modern age noted for global best practices, the adoption of the policy of ranching has become an urgent and irrevocable option.
“We stand in solidarity with Governor Akeredolu on his resolve to rid the forest reserves of bandits engaged in kidnapping and other crimes.
We call on the Federal Government and other state governors to work in partnership and end the terror perpetrated by these bandits whose occupation of the country’s forest reserves have become present and future dangers to Nigeria as a nation,”
Bitrus said. MBF also urged the IGP to desist from escalating the crisis in Oyo State. It warned against the move by the Nigeria Police to arrest Igboho over last Friday’s fracas in Igangan community, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State.
According to the Forum, arresting Igboho at this moment would only escalate the growing tension into a raging fury that may further lead to dreadful uncertainties for the nation’s future.