ROTIMI AKEREDOLU, Governor of Nigeria’s southwest, Ondo State, may have been having sleepless nights, over heightened insecurity in his State. Criminal elements maraud the state – killing, kidnapping maiming, raping women; as well as, crushing farm lands. The people he governs, as the chief executive and chief security officer of the state, expected much from him – to whom much is given. He needed to rescue them from the clutches of criminal elements in the State. He owed them adequate security – to protect their lives and properties. No excuses.
January 2020, six state governors of South-West states of Nigeria; Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States; established a regional security outfit, codenamed Operation Amotekun [Leopard]. Governor Akeredolu was at the centre, coordinated the launch of the security outfit. Operation Amotekun was conceived to tackle deteriorating insecurity in the region, which the national federal government, under President Buhari’s watch, had been unable to be manage.
Operation Amotekun and Nigeria Police, were expected to nip in the bud, the deteriorating insecurity in the region. However, in Ondo State, deepening insecurity, became Akeredolu’s migraine. With limited options furthered opened up to him, in ensuring that lives and properties of his people are protected, Akeredolu took the bull by the horn. He identified the root causes of heightened insecurity in the State, as handiwork of criminal elements linked with Fulani herdsmen.
Swiftly, Akeredulu issued seven days ultimatum, ordering criminal elements among Fulani herdsmen in Ondo State to leave the Forest Reserve. The order seemed relieving to his people, and other residents in the State, that have been tormented with wanton killings, banditry, kidnapping and crushing of farmlands. To rational thinkers and conscientized citizens, Akeredolu’s action was to clean up the State Forest Reserve of criminal elements.
THE INITIAL REACTION by Buhari’s government to Akeredolu’s action was inconsistent, with a government that prides itself, as genuinely waging war against insecurity in the country. Garba Shehu, President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, issued a statement, condemning Akeredolu’s action. Shehu raised the issue of constitutionality of the governor’s order. That every citizen of Nigeria has the right to live anywhere in the country and carry out lawful business.
Nigeria’s presidency, said “insecurity is not alien to any group, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith.” Garba Shehu’s statement, however, urged Ondo State government to tackle criminal elements within the state without breaching the “rights of herders” in the State. The presidency’s response, was, likely, motivated by Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria’s outcry over the quit order.
Nigerian constitution, however, does not, provide that criminal elements in the country, needed to be protected. Rather, the constitution provides that wherever criminal elements operate within the Nigerian nation, they must much be fished out, apprehended and prosecuted, according to the laws of the land. Whatever it is worth, criminal elements have no place, living with, or among Nigeria’s law-abiding citizens.
Reactions to the order from Akeredolu, varied. Yoruba elders and Afenefere, threw their weights behind the governor. They accused the presidency of meddlesomeness, on the issue that is within the purview of the governor. Also, that Buhari was unduly protecting Fulani’s interest. PANDEF, Niger Delta pressure group, said the order was in the best interest of the security and safety of Ondo people, and Nigerians who reside in the State.
Northern Elders Forum, NEF, saw the action differently. It described the quit order as provocative and unhelpful. That the governor has no constitutional power to take such action. It acknowledged, however, that the governor had duty to protect and improve the security of citizens in the State, but went overboard by asking the Fulani community to leave its lawful location.
SOUTH-WEST GOVERNORS, on Monday, in Akure, Ondo State, at the peak of the quit order, met with Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, to douse the built up tension, and find lasting solution to incessant killings, rapping, kidnapping, and destruction of farm lands in the region. The meeting was chaired by Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State; and Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum.
Emerging from the meeting, MACBAN, agreed to work with the governors of the region and security agencies to curb insecurity in the area. Communique issued after the meeting, stated that the governors and MACBAN, resolved that the order by Governor Akeredolu was misconstrued and misrepresented. Kayode Fayemi said Akeredolu did not ask Fulani to vacate Ondo State.
Specifically, the governors said the order was for those, illegally, occupying the forest reserves in Ondo State, to quit. South-west Governors present at the meeting, were Governors Kayode Fayemi [Ekiti State]; Rotimi Akeredolu [Ondo State]; Seyi Makinde [Oyo State]; and Gboyega Oyetola [Osun State]. Babajide Sanwo-Olu [Lagos State] and Dapo Abiodun [Ogun State] were absent.
Governors Muhammed Abubakar [Jigawa State] and Abubakar Bagude [Kebbi State] were also present. Others present included, former Deputy Governor of Osun State Iyiola Omisore; senior security officers in south-west, led by AIG Zone 11, Olufemi Agunbiade; and MACBAN state and national offices.
Momentous among the communique is that: “Criminals should be apprehended and punished, no matter their origin, class or status. Security agencies have been trying to stem the tide of criminality in the country but must step up their efforts in the fight”, including the “ban on night and underage grazing”.
“There is the need to build partnership for peace and security with MACBAN and jointly wage war against criminality. No one had sent anyone away from any state or region but all hands must be on deck to fight criminality”, the communique further stated.
ON A COLLABORATIVE note, Nigerian President Buhari, Wednesday, asked Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, of Ondo State, to flush out all criminals in the state, especially, those in the forest reserves. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu met with the president, at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, according to a statement by Donald Ojogo, Ondo State Commissioner for Information.
“It was a huge opportunity for the governor to put the records straight as regards the erroneous impression that Governor Akeredolu had asked all Fulani and herdsmen to vacate the state. The meeting afforded both leaders a great window to explore ingenious methods to tackle the issue of insecurity in the region. In particular, Governor Akeredolu sought and, indeed, obtained the President’s support and encouragement to flush out criminals in the forests of Ondo State”, Ojogo’s stated.
GOVERNANCE IN A FEDERATION, is what Akeredolu’s action, evicting criminal elements, from Ondo State Forest Reserve, exemplified. His firm position and resolve, in flushing out criminal elements in the State, and in its forest reserve, are within his purview as the chief executive and chief security officer of the State. Securing lives and properties of the people he governors, and other residents in the state are top priority to a state governor.
Governors of Nigeria’s 36 State, need to evolve more strategic approach to policing their states. They should be, equally, resolved and firmly take lawful position, as chief executive and chief security officers of their respective states, to flush out criminal elements. Criminal elements within their States and in forest reserves, should be apprehended and punished, no matter their “origin, class or status”.
The fourth deadliest known terrorist group, in the world, according to reports, is said to be the Fulani militant group, operating in parts of Central African Republic; and now infiltrating Nigeria. In the past few years, activities of criminal elements in Nigeria forests, are killing, kidnapping, raping women, and destroying farm lands. The situation across the country is becoming alarming, deteriorating, unbearable and unacceptable.