The Presidency of Nigeria has condemned Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate Ondo forest reserves.
In a statement on Tuesday, Garba Shehu, said the presidency has been keenly monitoring events occurring in Ondo State.
The special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari said what is emerging is a lack of consistency in messaging which in turn leads to various contradictions regarding accuracy and the intent behind the message.
The presidency called for restraint on both sides.
It urged 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.
Shehu said Akeredolu, being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has fought crime in his state with passion and commitment.
“It 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.
“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.
“The President, who swore to defend the constitution has spoken against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in asking citizens of Northern origin to leave; he did not spare the group based in Sokoto, ‘Muslim Solidarity Forum,’ which asked the Bishop of Sokoto to leave and is prepared to do all that the law permits to protect citizens all over the country in their choice of where they wished to reside and are treated as equal citizens.”
Shehu said the Ondo and all States must draw clear lines between the criminals and the law-abiding citizens.
He added that beyond law and order, the fight against crime is also a fight for human values which are fundamental to Nigeria.