The Presidency has warned that Ondo governor, Rotimi Akeredolu’s threat for herdsmen to leave the state forest reserves was unconstitutional because all Nigerians have choice to live where they want.
Akeredolu had on Monday, issued a seven days ultimatum to herdsmen in the state to leave Ondo forest reserve.
However, the presidency in a statement by the spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Garba Shehu on Tuesday urged the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue to dialogue.
According to the statement, the governor could not ask thousands of herdsmen, who had lived all their lives in the state on account of criminality that has no tribe.
Shehu added that as a senior advocate of Nigeria and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the governor has fought crime in his state with passion and commitment and therefore should know better.
“It 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 (IPOB) 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,” the presidency stated.
The statement added that Ondo and other states must draw clear lines between the criminals and the law-abiding citizens residing in the various states.