The directive Governor Rotimi Akeredolu issued to herders in Ondo to vacate the state forest reserves as pitted the state government against the presidency.
Akeredolu had given herdsmen in the state seven-day ultimatum to leave the forest among raft of pronouncements including ban on night grazing to tackle the spate of criminal activities in the state.
The orders, however, were no music to the ears of the Presidency,
Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in a statement he released said Akeredolu acted outside the constitution saying every Nigerian enjoyed the inalienable right to live in any part of the country.
The statement entitled, ‘In tackling crime, Ondo State Government will not act outside the constitution,’ reads in part, “Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, 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.
“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 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.”