Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), says the order by the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, that herdsmen should leave forest reserves within seven days is legal.
In a statement on Sunday, Falana said the order was in tandem with Section 42 (1) (e) and (g) of the Forestry Law of Ondo State which provided that whoever in any forest reserve, except with authority in writing of the prescribed officer, digs, cuts, turns or cultivates the soil or makes a farm or plantation; pastures cattle or permits cattle to trespass or trespasses in any part of forest reserves in which trespass shall be prohibited by an order of the governor.
The human rights lawyer said the Presidency ought to have studied the law properly before issuing a statement last week to condemn Akeredeolu.
“Without addressing the relevant provisions of the Forestry Law or reaching out to Governor Akeredolu, the Presidency rushed to the media to challenge the directive of the Ondo State Government as it might affect undocumented herders operating in the said forests. Regrettably, such official mismanagement of the crisis has been allowed to polarise the people along ethnic lines to the detriment of national security,” Falana said.
However, he urged the state government to extend the deadline given to the herdsmen while also calling on the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria to register with the state government.
Falana stated, “Concerning the brewing crisis in Ondo State, we call on Governor Akeredolu (SAN), to extend the seven-day ultimatum to allow all farmers and herders operating in the forest reserve to register with the state government without any delay.
“The Miyetti Allah and similar groups should ensure that all their members who have not registered with the state government do so without any further delay in the overall interest of the security of the people in the state.”
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to summon a Nigeria Police Council meeting to address the country’s heightened insecurity.
He added, “As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should mobilise adequate police and other security forces to halt the menace of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, armed robbery and other violent crimes in the land.”