The Buhari administration has dropped a subtle warning to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu not to breach the constitution in his quest to drive out herdsmen from Ondo forest reserves within seven days.
Akeredolu had announced the ultimatum, to upstage criminals who use the forests as fortresses and staging posts for banditry and kidnapping.
Leaders of the herdsmen have objected to the order.
A statement by presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, urged Akeredolu and the herdsmen to continue their dialogue ‘for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state’.
Although the statement urged the Ondo governor to respect the rights of the herdsmen, it failed to cite any violation of the constitution that Akeredolu’s order has breached.
But the statement expressed sentiments about the effect of the order: how it can “oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.”
“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 presidency stated.
It warned Akeredolu and other state governors taking similar steps to reflect on its full ramifications.
“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”, the presidency said.