Fulani herdsmen under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore have vowed to resist any eviction from the South-West, citing their rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution to live wherever they desire.
Miyetti Allah also vowed to avenge the alleged attacks on and loss of herdsmen and their cattle, saying it would never tolerate any act of injustice on herders.
The National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Mr Alhassan Saleh, stated these in an interview with Sunday PUNCH against a backdrop of the eviction notices issued to criminal herdsmen by some South-West groups and personalities.
Saleh said it was wrong to drive herders out of any part of Nigeria and that even if there were criminals among them, it was the function of the government’s security forces to identify and arrest them.
He said the eviction of herdsmen from the southern region of the country was a dangerous precedent and that the best way to solve the herders-farmers crisis was for state governments to provide ranches and grazing routes for the herders and their animals.
The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had in January asked all Fulani herdsmen to vacate the forest reserves in the state. He later issued a seven-day ultimatum to the effect.
The governor gave the order at a meeting with leaders of the Hausa/Fulani and Ebira communities in the state, saying the activities of the herdsmen had long been causing a threat to security in the state.
He said, “As the chief law and security officer of the state, it is my constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect the lives and property of all residents of the state. In the light of the foregoing, the following orders are hereby issued:
“1. 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 governor had also offered herders who wished to continue their business in the state to register with the appropriate authorities.
Akeredolu’s directive had generated criticism from the Presidency, which, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the governor could not “unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.”
Nevertheless, some South-West stakeholders have also issued similar eviction notices to criminal herdsmen in the region, accusing them of kidnapping, rape, and farmland destruction, among other crimes in places like Ibarapa and Yewa in Oyo and Ogun states, respectively.
One of the prominent voices, Yoruba activist and Akoni Oodua of Yoruba land, Sunday Adeyemo (aka Sunday Igboho), also asked criminal herdsmen to leave the region.
However, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore National Secretary, Saleh, said no group could evict the herders, vowing to resist any eviction from the South-West.
He said, “Nobody has the right (to evict herdsmen). If you say you are going to evict us, we will resist eviction. We have been surviving in harsh environments; if we do not resist, we will be wiped out of the planet. If you kill a herder, don’t go and sleep, we will revisit you, and it’s not because we hate your tribe. People attack herders, and in one way or the other, herders have found a way to retaliate.”
Also, Saleh said nobody could bar foreign herdsmen from entering Nigeria, saying most of the herders entering to the country once settled in Nigeria but relocated to other neighbouring countries like Ghana and Benin republics.
He said, “All those who travelled to the Benin Republic and others are coming back home. All those saying they will bar foreign herders from entering Nigeria are just playing to the gallery because if they are aware of the ECOWAS Protocols, they would know they cannot chase them away. That is why the position of the Bauchi State Governor [Bala Mohammed] is the true position. You have no right to evict anybody from any part of the country.
“Our number has increased recently because of the tension in Ghana and Benin republics. The ones in Benin Republic have integrated with the Yoruba in such a way that they speak the language. They were initially living in the South-West, and they are coming back,” he added.
Saleh described the eviction notice to herders as propaganda adding that “innocent” herders were becoming the casualties.
He said, “They expected a reaction from us, maybe by way of attacking other ethnic nationalities. But that is wrong because the herders they are attacking are the innocent herders. Are the criminals representing anybody? They are doing their criminal enterprise. Our own pain is that the people who are supposed to know are pretending as if they don’t know.
Saleh also asked governors to provide land for ranching for the herders as a solution to the continuous crisis, adding that the eviction of herders would only lead to wider consequences.