*Show the world that you’re father of all, Ondo monarchs tell Buhari
*YSG, Ondo lawmakers, Agunloye, others speak
*Your overt support for Miyetti Allah may destroy Nigeria, SMBLF tells FG
*How Akeredolu reactivated 1969 Cattle Trade Law
*50,000 farmers registered in four years – Agric commissioner
Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West & Dapo Akinrefon
Members of the Nigeria Forest Services, known as Forest Guards, drivers, farmers and traders, yesterday, stormed the streets of Akure protesting in support of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s order to herdsmen to vacate forest reserves in Ondo State within seven days.
The protesters, who decried incessant abduction of their members by herdsmen, carried placards with various inscriptions in support of the eviction of the herdsmen from the forest reserves.
They said Governor Akeredolu’s decision to eject unregistered herdsmen in the forest reserves was done in the best interest of the people of the state, and asked Governor Akeredolu not to back down on his directive.
The farmers among them, said if the current state of insecurity was not quickly checked, it might lead to famine in the state
Speaking with newsmen, Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Comrade Jacob, said commercial drivers are no longer safe in the state because herders allegedly attack and kidnap them with impunity.
Show you’re father of all, Ondo monarchs tell Buhari
The protest came as Ondo monarchs asked President Muhammad Buhari to show the world that he is the father of all, irrespective of ethnic affiliations. .
They were reacting to the statement by presidential aide, Malam Garba Shehu, which kicked against Akeredolu’s seven-day ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate government forest reserves across the state.
Speaking with newsmen in Akure after an emergency meeting of the state Council of Chiefs, the Olukare of Ikare, Oba Akadiri Momoh, who spoke on behalf of other monarchs, said they are in support the governor’s directive to unregistered herders to vacate government forest reserves.
Oba Momoh called on President Buhari to show the world that he is the father of all, irrespective of ethnic affiliations.
He urged the President to advise his aides to always exercise restraint on issues that border on the current insecurity in the country.
The monarchs also condemned deliberate attempt by some persons to twist the governor‘s clear directive in respect of government forest reserves, stressing that Fulani, like any other ethnic group, are free to live and conduct their legitimate businesses anywhere in the country, including Ondo State.
YSG tackles Presidency
Reacting to the development, the Yoruba Summit Group, YSG, said with the statement credited to the Presidency, it was evident that dark clouds were all over Nigeria.
YSG,which is the umbrella body of all Yorùbá groups, expressed worry that rather than supporting Akeredolu’s order against illegal herders in Ondo State forest reserves, the Presidency was fanning the embers of discord in the South-West.
“The Yorùbá Summit Group has come to see yet another peripatetic excursion by the Presidency which has ventured into now familiar, unending confrontational stance with the South-West. This time around, it is about Ondo State and her forest reserves,” it said in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo.
The group said Garba Shehu had, with the statement, displayed ignorance of Buhari’s government.
The group stated: “There is no more doubt that the corporate existence of Nigeria is at its shakiest ever. Everywhere, there is war, which is mostly due to the marauding, itinerant Fulani. Yet the Federal Government continues on its path of unforced errors towards a certain precipice by always siding with evil, with the murderous Fulani, who engage in kidnapping, maiming and destruction of farms.
“Suppose the Yorùbá, like the Fulani, embark on inviting Yorùbá in Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and all over Africa and beyond to come to Nigeria to cause mayhem. Suppose other ethnic nationalities also do this.?
“The drums of war that Garba Shehu and his cohorts are strumming upon in issuing such an irresponsible statement against a lawful government will fail them utterly when pitched against the law!
“In accordance with relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution, Land Use Act and state law/Regulations on agricultural produce/practices, the state government, in order to control and regulate economic activities in the reserved areas, regulate business activities in the state and provide security for both lives and properties in the state.
‘’It has every legal stand to require anyone to register his economic activities in the state or to vacate its land and properties, in this case, Ondo State forest reserves.”
FG’s overt support for Miyetti Allah may destroy Nigeria – SMBLF
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, yesterday, warned the Federal Government over the dangerous game it was playing over its alleged overt support for Miyetti Allah. “Should there be any breakdown of law and order in any part of the country over this encouragement of Miyetti Allah against law and order, President Buhari will be held squarely responsible,’’ the forum said.
Reacting to Ondo State government’s seven days ultimatum given to Fulani herdsmen to vacate its forest reserves, the forum said it was purely a residual matter which the Federal Government has no business with.
In a statement by Yinka Odumakin (South-West), Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt), the forum said no responsible governor would allow what the Federal Government wants for Fulani herdsmen.
The statement read: “The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum is compelled to warn the Federal Government on the dangerous game it is playing over its overt support for Miyetti Allah to violate the lawful order of Ondo State Government banning grazing in its forest reserves.
“We are supposed to be a Federal Republic and Forest Reserves in states are fully residual matter to which the Federal Government has no business with.
The Federal Government statement by Garba Shehu that the Governor of Ondo lacks the full powers to decide on its reserves, in spite of the Land Use Act that vests lands in states in the governors was a complete overreach and clear abuse of the constitution in a bid to elevate Fulani herders above the law.
‘’It is a continuation of the obsessive attachment to Miyetti Allah like the President instructing Governor Ortom to go and live peaceably with killers after Miyetti Allah allegedly killed 78 citizens of the state in January 2019, to prevent Ondo from holding its rights on its reserves in the face of persistent killings of its people by herders occupying the reserves illegally.
“No decent or responsible governor would allow what the Federal Government wants for Fulani herdsmen.
“SMBLF, therefore, asks the Federal Government to withdraw the unjust diktat and allow Ondo to enforce the law. We equally call on all governors in all non-Fulani communities who are being forced to live under Fulani terror to take proactive measures to secure their people lawfully.
“Should there be any breakdown of law and order in any part of the country over this encouragement of Miyetti Allah against law and order, President Buhari will be held squarely responsible.”
Ondo lawmakers blast Garba Shehu
Also, members of the State House of Assembly said yesterday that the seven days ultimatum issued to herdsmen to quit the state forests was a good intention meant to secure the lives and property of the people.
Chairman, House Committee on Information, Gbenga Omole, in a statement, noted that the quit notice followed “the incessant cases of kidnapping, and other criminal activities traceable to herders in the state forest reserves.
‘’The mindless killing of the daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, the gruesome murder of the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Adewusi, the recent killing of the Deputy Registrar of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, among others are still very fresh in our memory.”
Commending Governor Akeredolu for his courage in issuing the vacation order, the lawmakers picked holes in Garba Shehu’s statement faulting the governor.
They noted that residents of the state have gone through a lot of trauma in the hands of the criminally minded individuals, adding that it was the onerous responsibility of government to protect the lives and property of the citizenry.
While pledging their support for the quit order, the legislators stated that they might have to cut short their recess to attend to the burning issue and urged registered herders to go about their legitimate duties without fear.
Makinde, Akeredolu’s orders in order– Agunloye
Also reacting to the development, a former minister, Dr Olu Agunloye, said the serious security breaches and challenges confronting the governors of Ondo and Oyo states necessitated the directives aimed at ensuring order, security and safety in their domains.
He said: “These orders are certainly in order. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is correct to order (unregistered) herdsmen and “bad elements” to vacate all forest reserves in Ondo State because they have turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom, and carrying out other criminal activities.
“Governor Seyi Makinde is right to direct individuals or groups to avoid stoking ethnic tensions and to stop circulating flyers and giving ultimatums to others to leave Oyo State. His directives were regarding ‘taking all necessary steps to protect the good people of Oyo State from harassment, thuggery and banditry.’”
“As a matter of fact, the security issues in the South-West have become profoundly disturbing and the situation requires concerted, firm efforts and not kid gloves.
“All the South- West governors, including Akeredolu and Makinde, are aware of their responsibilities to ensure security and safety for all the people in Yoruba land, including the courageous Sunday Igboho, whose struggles to set the land free from terrorists is commendable.’’
Urging that “the efforts of the South-West to combat crimes in the land required strategic coordination, networking and precision at this time, and not individual discretion or haphazard or disjointed stunts,’ Agunloye said Amotekun should be expanded in terms of reinforcement and empowerment through appropriate recruitment, training and technological enhancement.
How Akeredolu reactivated 1969 Cattle Trade Law
Meanwhile, fresh facts have emerged on how Governor Akeredolu used relevant portions of two laws to pronounce an ultimatum that herders should vacate government reserved forests.
The Laws are the Land Use Act of 1978 and the Trade Cattle Tax Law of Ondo. Although the latter was promulgated in 1969, prior to the creation of the state, a 2006 amended version exists.
This is coming as the Agriculture Commissioner and Rural Development, Gboyega Adefarati, said registration of farmers and their businesses was not new, adding that no fewer than 50,000 of such had been registered in the last four years.
Adefarati said over 70 per cent of government reserved forests had been encroached upon when the Akeredolu administration came on board in 2017.
“When our administration came on board in 2017, we discovered that over 70 per cent of government reserves had been encroached by farmers, many of whom desired the fertile, arable and virgin land to grow non-perennial crops.
“After a diligent research and report on Ondo State Government Forest Reserves in 2018, we came up with a symbiotic policy.
“With stiff adherence to all regulations that protect animals and trees, farmers are registered to farm on Ondo State Government Reserves. With this, if you desire land to farm, you have to apply to Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and the government, after considering your application, shall grant the considered hectares of land in which you are regulated to do your legal and legitimate farming.
“In retrospect, we have registered over 50,000 farmers who engage in different forms of agricultural activities in Ondo State Government Forest Reserves. With this, we regulate their activities and reduce criminality as we interface daily with farmers,’’ he said.
An official of the State Ministry of Justice who spoke with newsmen in confidence, said both laws had given enormous powers to the State Executive Council as well as the governor on land matters, especially reserved forests.
The official, who didn’t want his name in print, said:”Two of such laws which fully back the pronouncement of the Ondo State Government on herdsmen activities within the State are (1) The Land Use Act; and (2) The Trade Cattle Tax Law of Ondo State, promulgated as far back as 1969;
“Section 315(5) of the Constitution specifically states that nothing in the Constitution shall invalidate enactments listed under items “a” to “d” thereof, one of which is the Land Use Act. In other words, nothing in the Constitution, including the fundamental rights provisions therein, can invalidate the provisions of the Land Use Act.
“Section 1 of the said Land Use Act categorically states that “…all land comprised in the territory of State in the Federation are hereby vested in the Governor of that State and such land shall be administered for the use and common benefit of all Nigerians in accordance with the provisions of this Act.” Section 12 (1) of the same Act also states that:
“It shall be lawful for the Governor to grant a licence to any person to enter upon any land…”, while Sub-section 5 thereof clearly states that “The Governor may cancel any such licence if the licensee fails to comply with any of the conditions of the licence.”
“The word “license” here simply means permit. Basically therefore, it is within the powers of a State Governor to grant a licence, or permit, or right to anyone to enter any land within the State, and to cancel or withdraw such permit or licence if the holder violates any condition attendant to same.
“It goes without saying, therefore, that the Governor can impose conditions for anyone to enter, and/or be licensed to enter any land within the State.
“The Ondo State Governor therefore has the power to order herdsmen, or any other persons carrying on any other business on lands within the territory of the State, to apply for permit or license to do so, under the above clear provisions of the Land Use Act.
“That cannot in any way, be interpreted as a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of movement.’’
The Justice Ministry official said the Trade Cattle Tax Law of Ondo State was promulgated as far back as 1969, with a commencement date of July 3, 1969.
According to the official, the law is contained in Chapter (Cap.) 153, Vol. 4, Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006. It has 18 sections.
Section 2 of the Law talks about “movement permit”, which is defined as: “a movement permit issued in the State under the Control Trade Cattle Regulations or a permit relating to the movement of trade cattle issued by any authority having power to issue the same under any law in force in any other part of Nigeria.”
The official added: ‘’The expression, any law in force in any other part of Nigeria in this context, of course, includes the Land Use Act, as earlier established. In the same vein, “Trade Cattle” is defined in Section 2 of the Law as “any of the type of animals specified in the First Schedule hereto which are in the possession of or under the control of any person within the State for the purposes of the trade or business of that person or any other person as a dealer in such animals, but does not include any animal which is possessed by or under the control of any person for any domestic purpose or animals proceeding to grazing grounds or which are for use only as pack animals.
“Among the animals listed in the First Schedule to the Law are cows, bulls, sheep and goats. So, the law applies to those who carry on the business of herding such animals, other than as domestic animals.
“Section 5 of the Law again recognizes the legitimacy of issuing trade cattle movement permit “along recognizable trade cattle route”, while Section 4 thereof provides for the establishment of “a cattle control post or inspection station, as the case may be, for the purposes of the Law.
“Section 6 of the Law goes further to state that: “Trade cattle tax shall be payable at the prescribed rates at the appropriate control post or inspection station described in section 5”, while Section 9 of the Law makes it a criminal offence punishable, upon summary conviction, with a fine of fifty thousand naira or to imprisonment for three years or to both such fine and imprisonment, for any person who, being the owner or agent of the owner or one in charge of trade cattle, fails to pay any trade cattle tax or take such trade cattle to the appropriate control post or inspection station in accordance with the law.
“Instructively, Section 16 of the law gives the State Executive Council the power to make Regulations for the purpose of enforcing the law.’’
Vanguard News Nigeria