Ondo State Government At Loggerhead With The Presidency Over Herdsmen

Ondo State Government At Loggerhead With The Presidency Over Herdsmen

The Ondo state government is in a so-called knot with the federal government over the state decision to send herdsmen out of the state forest reserves within seven days. Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, the Nigerian Bar Association former president and a seasoned lawyer on Monday, reported that herdsmen in the state should vacate the forest reserves within seven days. He linked this to the high rising case of insecurity and kidnap cases in the state.

He lamented that the culprits had turned the state forest reserves into hideouts to carry out other criminal activities and keep victims kidnapped. The governor did not specifically say the herdsmen are responsible for the kidnaps or unlawful activities. He said the illegal activities are traceable to the culprits who are disguised as the herdsmen using the same location, the forest reserve for the criminal activities. Not only did the governor give the herders seven days ultimatum to leave the state, but he also banned night grazing, under-aged grazing, and movement of cattle within the cities and highways.

One crucial fact that the presidency or most persons are not getting is that Ondo state governor did not tell herders to leave the forest reserves, he said that herders who are not registered should leave the forest. Meaning the criteria for staying in the forest is that the state government must register the herdsmen to seek their cattle to keep grazing in the forest. The state said the purpose is to ensure that lives and properties within the state are secured. 

The presidency is not seeing it this way as they issued a response in less than 24 hours after Akeredolu gave the order. Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the governor would be the least expected to expel herders in the state unilaterally. He also came from an angle that the governor was biased and cruel by linking the criminal activities in the state to ethnicity, geographical origins and religion.

No state governor will overlook criminal activities in its country and not act. It will only render him a figurehead. There have been several criminal activities in Ondo state, some of which are the Olufon of Ifon, King Israel Adeusi who was shot by bandits in November 2020. In the same month, the Chief of Staff’s wife to the governor was abducted by unidentified gunmen. Earlier this month, January in Uso community in Owo local government of the state, a couple and two others were also abducted. Just days after that, a traveller was kidnapped along Ise/Isua, Akoko road.

The Ondo state government also gave a swift response to the presidency. Donald Ojogo, the Ondo state commissioner for Information and Orientation, said that the presidency response has shown the federal government’s position in the case.  He also corrected that the governor did not order herdsmen out of the state, he ordered unregistered herdsmen out of the state because of the state’s high insecurity. The presidency’s take on this is only promoting criminal activities because this will only give the culprits the energy to do more since they have the federal government’s backing.

The only way the state can account for the herdsmen in the state is by getting them registered so that they can give account if anything happens around the area where their cattle are gazing and help address criminal activities to the right quarters. If any herdsman has issues with registering with the state, then that person needs to be investigated because the state is not asking for too much. If you cannot register then leave, it is as simple at that. Donald Ojogo also mentioned that the statement from Garba is a show of emotional attachment unfriendly to the corporate existence of the country. 

Not every herdsman will say they have been masquerading as criminal and that is why is essential for them to register under the state government. The issue of herdsmen is one of the issues that the Buhari administration have had to battle with during his time. Farmers and herdsmen have always been at loggerhead and this call by the Ondo state government is to curb the rate of insecurity in the state which every government should do in order to protect the lives and properties of the people of the state. 

This is not a problem associated with Ondo state alone, several states in the country have had issues with herdsmen in recent and past times, and governors have been under pressure to proffer a solution to this challenge. Garba Shehu said the Ondo state government was acting against the constitution, this can be seen from the section 421 of the constitution that says that Nigerians are entitled to freedom of movement in any state in the country and cannot be forced out or expelled or prohibited from moving in and out of any state in the country.

What should be done is that the federal government should cooperate with the affected state to ensure that the issues of herdsmen and insecurity in the state are managed. Because some of them like in the case of Oyo will not adhere to anything the state government tells them to do because they feel it is their man in power and nobody can talk them out except the president speaks. The issues of insecurity in states are rising. If state governors grow to make decisions, the least the federal government can do is to seek ways to adjust the set order or cooperate with the state government.

January 22, 2021

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