The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), yesterday, frowned at the ongoing forceful eviction of Fulani herdsmen from the South-West region of the country. The forum has, therefore, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately put in place measures to protect Fulani from harassment not only in the South-West but also in other parts of Nigeria where they may be facing threats to their lives and property.
The appeal came just as the Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Chief Rotimu Akeredolu (SAN) alleged that majority of the armed herdsmen occupying the forest reserves in his state were foreigners and must be evicted to stem the tide of violence and criminality in the region.
In a statement made available to newsmen, the NEF said they were “deeply worried by reports of ejection threats and attacks on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states in the southern parts of the country.” Director of Publicity and Advocacy of NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed urged governors of the northern states to prepare to receive the Fulani from the South-West in the event that the president is unable to do what is necessary to stop the threats of evictions.
“The Forum has been receiving these reports since the night of Sunday, January 31, and had taken the responsible step by drawing the attention of authorities to the dangers which these attacks represent for all Nigerians.
“It is necessary to warn people who threaten lawabiding Fulani communities in all parts of Nigeria, but particularly in some parts of the South, to desist. The vast majority of Fulani are law-abiding and have rights to live lawfully wherever they can find means of subsistence. “Like all Nigerians who can be found in every inch of Nigeria, the rights of the Fulani will not be abridged by criminals hiding behind ethnic interests to exterminate them.
Citizens and groups who play the role of police and other lawenforcement agencies are committing crimes, and they must be stopped by leaders who are sworn to protect the law and security of all Nigerians.
“The Forum reminds the nation that there are criminals in all ethnic groups, and the nation will be treading dangerous grounds if it continues to tolerate the demonization of entire groups over particular types of crimes,” Baba Ahmed said.
The Forum called on President Buhari and governors to take immediate and decisive steps to protect law-abiding members of Fulani communities from being harmed by those, it said, apparently believed that Fulani have no rights in Nigeria. NEF also demanded the immediate arrest and prosecution of persons who attack the Fulani, stressing that such violence could set the country on a very dangerous path.
‘The Forum repeats its earlier position: the Fulani will not be ejected from any Nigerian community only on the basis of being Fulani or herding cattle within the limits of laws and regulations.
“States which seek to limit criminal activities are perfectly entitled to do so, but they must follow due process, and avoid exposing innocent citizens to danger at all cost. The Forum demands that the Nigeria Police must live up to its constitutional responsibility to detect crimes and arrest and prosecute criminals, whoever they are. “No politician has the right to outsource the work of the police to local thugs and gangs. If communities in parts of the country insist that the lawful Fulani is unwelcome and has no right to their security, then the Forum will advise them to relocate to the North.
Northern governors should move urgently to prepare to receive Fulani communities being forcefully ejected. “The Forum appeals again for all Nigerians to exercise restraint and not to play into hands of people who desire to achieve dubious political goals by pitching citizens against each other. Persons who inflame passions by circulating videos and other materials should also desist.
The Forum hopes that Nigerians will see firm, fair and responsible leadership from all elected leaders without delay,” said NEF. Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) South-West Caucus in the House of Representatives has declared their support for Governor Akeredolu over the current efforts to flush out criminal elements terrorising Ondo State. The endorsement came when a delegation from the Caucus paid Akeredolu a solidarity visit in Akure, the capital of Ondo State.
The seventy-two member caucus, represented by Femi Fakeye (Osun), Enitan Dolapo (Lagos) and Mayowa Akinfolarin (Ondo), lauded Akeredolu for his pronouncement that there would no longer be any place for criminals in the South-West .
Leader of the delegation, Hon. Fakeye, said they were in support of any legitimate steps to flush out criminals from the South-West, adding that the fight against criminality deserved the support of everyone within the region.
He, however, advised that in waging the war, cultural differences of the various ethnicities in the country must be respected as criminality had no ethnicity. In response, Akeredolu said the protection of lives and property of the people must take priority, adding that it was a duty he was elected to perform.
The governor disclosed that most crimes perpetrated in the state were committed by foreigners residing permanently in the government forest reserves. Earlier, Akeredolu had received some top officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) who also paid him a courtesy visit. The delegation was led by the Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) Dora E. Amahian, who is Coordinator of Zone ‘F’ comprising Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states. In their interaction, the governor decried the activities of some foreign herders in the state forest reserves and charged the immigration officers to beef up security at the land borders as the rate at which foreigners were coming into the country through the land borders was alarming.
“Something has to be done. A number of criminal activities in our forest reserves are being perpetrated by foreigners. We are facing serious security challenges. “I don’t know if you can face the challenge. I am not too sure your efforts alone can be sufficient. There is the need for collaboration with other security agencies. Peace is what we are talking about in the country,” he said.