ONDO State government is set for a showdown with the presidency over the issue of Fulani cattle herdsmen as the ongoing dispute over the expulsion of pastoralists by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu heats up.
Earlier this week, Governor Akeredolu gave Fulani herdsmen operating in the forest areas of Ondo State seven days to leave. However, in a swift response, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman Mallam Garba Shehu said no governor has the right to expel herdsmen from its territory as they were legitimate Nigerians going about their business.
Adegboyega Adefarati, the Ondo State commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said that over 50,000 farmers have been registered to engage in various agricultural activities in the state’s forest reserves and insisted that no herder will be permitted to graze without going through the due registration. Governor Akeredolu claimed criminal elements who have infiltrated the ranks of the Fulani herdsmen, have turned the forest reserves into dens of kidnappers.
However, on Tuesday, Mallam Shehu retorted: “The governor cannot unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.”
With no end of the dispute in sight, the two sides are set for a showdown, with Mr Adefarati insisting that it was illegal for herdsmen to encroach on the state-owned forest reserves. He added: “Love it or leave it, farming is farming, be it crop production or animal husbandry.
“If any Nigerian irrespective of his/her State of origin desires land for farming in government forest reserves, he/she must apply to the Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and pay the normal fee for the required hectares of land. It is illegal for herdsmen to encroach Ondo State Government Forest Reserves without permission and graze on the farms, many of which will be destroyed.
“Let me say it again and again that no activity, be it hunting, planting crops and animal rearing, can be done in Ondo State Forest Conservation without permission. The laws guiding Ondo State Forest are clear and concise on it.”