M’Belt leaders back move against criminal herders in Ondo
•MBF, Okunniyi caution against Igboho’s arrest
• We will nab him, say police
•Saraki laments silence by ‘key’ stakeholders
More groups, including Middle Belt Forum (MBF), and individuals have declared support for move by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to rid Ondo State forests reserves of criminal herders and bandits who indulge in killing and kidnapping innocent people.
In a statement signed by the National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, in Abuja, yesterday, the forum said: “As the umbrella organisation representing ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt region, we are 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.
“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.”
The group said the storm of reactions over the quit notice issued by Akeredolu to criminal herders to either vacate the state forest reserves or face the full wrath of the law was amazing.
“We are also worried at the turn of events in the South-west and the order issued by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, for arrest of Mr. Sunday Adeyemo (a.k.a Igboho) over his alleged role in the violence that took place at the weekend in Oyo State.
“While we welcome the bold decision by the governor to protect life and property of citizens threatened by activities of bandits that have now found safe havens in forests, we are completely opposed to any action by the Federal Government to escalate the ongoing tension as demonstrated by the arrest order on Igboho. ”
MBF observed that, as the chief security officer of Ondo State, 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, we reiterate that Akeredolu’s quit order is to unregistered criminal herders occupying the forests and involved in kidnappings and banditry.
“We state that it is unacceptable for the Federal Government to interfere in the genuine efforts deployed by Akeredolu to end the ceaseless abductions of peaceful citizens for ransom.
“What the Federal Government should do now is assist Akeredolu and other state governors to flush out these criminals and end the culture of lawlessness ripping across not only Ondo, but other states where these outlaws have turned our nation’s forest reserves into safe harbours for their crimes.”
A DELEGATE to the 2014 national confab and spokesman of Project Nigeria Movement (PNM), Olawale Okunniyi, cautioned IGP against exacerbating the rising tension in the South west by arresting Igboho, whom he described as a Yoruba nationalist activist.
In a statement yesterday, Okunniyi said Igboho’s radical intervention was to quell the unfortunate spate of kidnapping, ransom taking and murder in Southwest forests.
He warned that such arrest order at a time like this and on the issue of pervasive criminality within Southwest forest would only aggravate the situation rather than resolve it.
Okunniyi noted that the current activism of Igboho is popular among Yoruba people and his arrest might trigger off an unintended civil strife in the zone.
BUT Oyo State Police Commissioner, Mrs. Ngozi Onedeko, said they would bring perpetrators of arson in Igangan to justice.
In a statement made available to journalists by the command’s Public Relations Officer, Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the command was investigating the arson in Igangan.
FORMER Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the development in Oyo and Ondo states in which quit notices were given to Fulani herders were symptomatic of continued threat to unity of the country as witnessed on a higher scale in recent times and in different parts of the country, including South-East and South-South zones.
“I strongly appeal to all of us to work for peace and take initiatives that can douse tension. Both the elite and ordinary people have a responsibility to begin to take measures that will reassure the people across board that a united Nigeria will benefit everybody better than a disintegrated country.
“The deafening silence by key stakeholders, leaders and others whom we think should speak out is worrisome. This silence is a dangerous tell-tale sign that things are wrong. This is not good for our country. We must all speak out and talk about the solution to this twin-problem of insecurity and threat to national unity,” Saraki said in a statement.
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