Forest Reserves: Ondo Govt Defends Directive To Herdsmen, Faults Garba Shehu
The Ondo State Government has faulted the Federal Government’s comments on the directive given by the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, for all herdsmen occupying the Forest Reserves to vacate the area within the next one week.
The governor had asked the herdsmen to vacate the area after he raised concerns that some criminal elements hiding under the guise of herdsmen, had turned the forest to a kidnap den.
But a statement issued on Tuesday by the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the governor was wrong to order the thousands of herdsmen out of the state, and that in past years he had fought crime with passion and great sensitivity.
In reaction to that, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Ondo State, Donald Ojogo, said the President could not have approved such a statement.
“It is certain that the president may not have directed that statement and I’m almost persuaded to think that Garba Shehu did not issue that statement because that would have been a very dangerous one for the unity of this country,” he said on Wednesday on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily.
“It would mean that certain persons in the presidency are out to create problems for the President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Insecurity is becoming a national issue. No part of the country is insulated from crisis.
“I don’t believe he would want to offer himself as a spokesperson of people masquerading as herdsmen to commit crimes”.
Speaking further, Ojogo defended the government’s directive, saying that not all herdsmen or Fulanis were asked to vacate the area.
According to him, the governor only gave the directive to those herdsmen who have occupied the forest reserves, adding that “in this case, the forest reserves are different from the natural reserves”.
He described the reserves as government monuments and places that were earmarked for specific purposes.
“These forest reserves are government monuments, they are treasures of the people of the southwest right from time immemorial. These were places that have been earmarked for beauty and biodiversity.
“There are specific purposes for which these places have been earmarked. Unfortunately, some of these criminal elements have gone to mingle with Fulani herdsmen who have occupied portions of these forest reserves as settlements and in any case, anytime victims are kidnapped, they take them directly into the depths of the forest reserves and security agencies have had enough evidence to show that these persons are taken into the forest.
“So, what the government is trying to do is to clear the mess”.