The Presidency has told the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to separate terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographic origins and religion. Apparently responding to a recent order by Akeredolu that herders should vacate Ondo Forest Reserves, a Presidential spokesman,Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday warned that such order could set off chains of reactions if not reversed.
Akeredolu had on Monday in series of Twitter posts said ‘bad elements’ had turned the forest reserves in his state into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out others criminalities.
He therefore ordered all herdsmen in the Forest Reserves to vacate the place with seven days beginning from Monday, January 18. But the Presidency cautioned that having governed the state for close to five years, it would be least unexpected of thegovernortounilaterallyoust thousands of herderswho have livedalltheirlivesinthestateon accountof theinfiltrationof the forests by criminals. He warned against ethnic profiling, insisting criminals should be treated as such, irrespective of their origin.
He said “We need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion—to isolate the criminals who use this interchange of arguments to hinder law enforcement efforts as the only way to deal effectively with them.
“Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has fought crime in his state with passion and commitment, greater sensitivity and compassion for the four years he has run its affairs and, in our view, will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.
“If this were to be the case, rights groups will be right in expressing worries that the action could set off a chain of events which the makers of our constitution foresaw and tried to guard against. We want to make it clear that kidnapping, banditry and rustling are crimes, no matter the motive or who is involved.
But, to define crime from the nameplates, as a number of commentators have erroneously done- which group they belong to, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith is atavistic and cruel.”
Shehu who declared that the Presidency has been keenly monitoring events in the state since the quit order by Akeredolu noted that there was lack of consistency in the intended message the governor wanted to pass across. He said Akeredolu message may have been misconstrued leading to various contradictions regarding accuracy and the intent behind the message. “There is little to be said other than to call for restraint on both sides and urge the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue their dialogue for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state,” he said.