The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA Ado-Ekiti, Ola Dan Olawale, Esq. has expressed confidence on in the decision by the Ondo State Government asking Fulani herdsmen to vacate it’s forest reserves within seven days.
However, Mr. Ola equally gave a cavaet on the need to prevent any violations of the fundamental human rights of each and every Nigerian on Nigeria’s soil in the process of enhancing security.
Mr. Olawale’s full statement is reproduced below:
Mixed reactions have trailed the Ondo State government’s seven days ultimatum given to Fulani herdsmen to vacate government forest reserves in the state. While some individuals, including traditional rulers hailed the step, some others, notably Miyyetti Allah challenged government’s directive.
Indeed, Mr. Governor has taken a bold step in issuing seven days ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate Ondo State government forest reserves. His Excellency’s action is the right step in the right direction and the same is not only commendable, it is worthy of being supported by every well meaning inhabitant of Ondo State.
Howbeit, we must not fail to point out that Mr. Governor was a bit too late and or unduly too hesitant to act in the circumstances the state has found itself. The saying is trite that when you offer a leper a handshake, you must be prepared to embrace him. And he that desires to dine with the devil without having a long spoon must not complain of receiving knocks on the head. When you hear your neighbours beckoning to one another to carry a dirty load and you fail to join in carrying the load; you cannot feign surprise when you later discover that the dirt has been dumped in your backyard.
It is not up to a couple of years when some state governments banned activities of cattle rearers in their states. We heard of states where truck loads of Fulani boys were arrested and turned back. Some state even used the instrumentality of legislation to outrightly ban cattle grazing et al in their domain. The resultant effect of all these proactive measures on docile states is the influx of bad and destructive elements into their domain. Ondo State dozed for a bit too long on this life threatening issue, hence the resultant threat by Miyetti Allah.
We must not forget that a tenant, though obliged to his landlord, has some rights. In law, the Fulani cattle rearers found on government forest reserves are deemed to be tenants of Ondo State government. Their tenancy status could be express. It could also be derived either from the conduct, action or inaction of the Ondo State government. The mere fact that herdsmen have been conducting themselves and carrying on their grazing activities (now mixed with criminal conducts) without any challenge, nay regulation, from government quarters is tantamount to their acceptance as tenants.
Apart from the assumed tenancy status of Fulani herdsmen in Ondo State government forest reserves, what becomes of their fundamental rights to freedom of movement under the Constitution of the Federal Republic? Of course, their rights to freedom of movement may not extend to government land. Nevertheless, it is not limited to privately owned landed property. What becomes of the constitutional fundamental right to own and keep property anywhere in Nigeria? We won’t endeavour to delve into this narrow,, yet deep area of the law for now.
It however flows from the above that it would require more than Mr. Governor’s ultimatum to turn the tide. It will take more than seven strokes of the brush to remove a blood stain that has been on a white linen for close to seventeen moon. According to the respected juju sage, Commander Ebenezer Obey:
` Òpá kan ò p'ejò“- A stroke of the cane does not kill a snake.
In curbing the menace of bad elements within the ranks of Fulani herdsmen, legislation is required. Well thought out, well drafted and well articulated laws must be passed by the State House of Assembly. The law must not only seek to curtail kidnapping and other vices associated with cattle grazers,; it must be all encompassing as to accommodate the grazers within us (afterll, we are but one Nigeria). It must regulate their activities in term of identification, registration, localisation, taxation, deportation and what have you. Government of Ondo State will do well in bringing together men of vision and direction in actualising a State where Fulanis, Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio, Ijaw, Urhobo, Tiv, Ebira and all natives of the world could live together in harmony with the Yourubas to whom the Almighty has put on the land.
It goes without saying that it would be a harculian task for our law enforcement agencies to execute Mr. Governor’s directive if the Fulanis herdsmen failed, refused and or neglected to vacate government forest reserves within the period given. What of reprisal attacks from the herdsmen? What of bloodshed in remote communities? Have we thought of what their kinsmen in Yobe, Borno and Jigawa States might do to our sons in the far north?
All hands must be on deck to ensure a safe Ondo State for all.