Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has granted amnesty to 11 inmates serving various jail terms in correctional centres in the state to mark the beginning of 2021.

The Presidency on Tuesday reacted to the controversial order issued by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to herdsmen to leave Ondo forest reserves in seven days, describing it as unconstitutional.

The governor who is the Chairman of the South- west Governors’ Forum had issued the quit notice on the herders following what he called the spate of killings and other criminal activities going on in the state, during a meeting with the Hausa Fulani and Ebira communities in Akure, the state capital, yesterday.

The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bolaji Salami and the state Commandant of Amotekun Corps, Mr. Tunji Adeleye also attended the meeting

According to the governor ; “All Forest Reserves in the state are to be vacated by herdsmen within the next seven days with effect from Monday 18th January 2021.”

The statement generated controversy as the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere supported the order while the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, pleaded with the governor for time to allow them hold a meeting with their members.

In its reaction, the presidency said the governor acted outside the Constitution of the country and called for restraint on the side of the state government and the Fulani communities in the state

According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Shehu Graba, in a statement on Tuesday, the presidency has been keenly monitoring events occurring in Ondo State and the “orders” by the government of the state, “asking herders to vacate the forests in seven days.”

“What is clearly emerging, is a lack of consistency in messaging which in turn leads to various contradictions regarding accuracy and the intent behind the message. There is little to be said other than to call for restraint on both sides and urge the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue their dialogue for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state”, he said.

According to him, “Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, 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 (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 government of Ondo, and all the 35 others across the federation must draw clear lines between the criminals and the law abiding citizens who must equally be saved from the infiltrators. Beyond law and order, the fight against crime is also a fight for human values, which are fundamental to our country.”

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