The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has asked herders in Ondo state not to leave their locations and resist moves to be labelled as criminals.
In a statement on Wednesday, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a spokesman of the forum, asked Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo, to rescind the ultimatum given to herders to vacate forest reserves in the state.
He described the governor’s order as provocative and unhelpful.
On Monday, Akeredolu gave herders a seven-day ultimatum to leave the forests, citing the rising insecurity in the state.
The governor said “bad elements” have turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.
But Baba-Ahmed said Fulanis will not accept unfair treatment, challenging the governor to isolate criminals and treat them as such.
“Northern Elders Forum is shocked at reports that Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is asking a Fulani community to leave its lawful location, in addition to other restrictions on activities of Fulani people who have lived in the State for a long period,” Baba-Ahmed said.
“Governor Akeredolu is a senior lawyer who should know that the constitution does not give him the power to deny any Nigerian the right to live where he chooses if he does not break the law in the process. His duty to protect and improve the security of citizens and all people in Ondo State cannot be challenged.
“No Nigerian has the power to take punitive action against citizens on political grounds. The forum believes that the action of the governor is provocative and unhelpful.
“If there are criminal elements among the Fulani who live in the state, the governor should take appropriate steps to identify them and deal with them. Similarly, the Fulani do not enjoy legal immunity in any part of Nigeria.
“The Fulani are subject to all laws and regulations and must respect the communities with which they live and interact. What is dangerous and unacceptable is to profile and demonize the Fulani and treat him outside the laws of the land like all other Nigerians.
“The Fulani community in Ondo state should stay put where they are and continue to be law-abiding.
“We call on Governor Akeredolu to rescind his order on the Fulani, or clarify his position in the event that he is misunderstood. For the avoidance of doubt, no Fulani anywhere in Nigeria will accept unfair and illegal treatment just for being Fulani.”