Criminals not wanted in South West —Govs

•Say Northern Elders Forum divisive •May meet Buhari next week with security reports

GOVERNORS of South-West states have warned northern elders against fanning ember of discord in the country, just as they declared that criminals will not find the South-West hospitable.

The governors’ warning came a day after the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, met with President Muhammadu Buhari and declared that ‘strange persons’ had invaded the South West and were nestling in the forests there.

In a statement issued on Friday by their chairman, who is also the governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, the South-West governors described a recent order by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) to Fulani herdsmen to leave southern Nigeria as divisive and retrogressive.

They also stated that they looked up to security agencies to help curtail the “major challenge of insecurity which engenders hopelessness” in the South West.

“Our attention has just been drawn to the most unfortunate statement credited to Northern Elders Forum (NEF). According to press reports, NEF has asked persons of Fulani extraction resident in the southern part of the country to return to the North. With no intention to engage anyone or group, it is incumbent on us, as elected representatives of our people in the South West region of the country, to denounce this divisive and retrogressive statement in the strongest terms possible,” the governors said.

They also stated that they noted, “with palpable trepidation and outrage, the sustained attempts to fan the ember of discord and seizing of every opportunity offered by the current security challenge to undermine the unity and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.

“It is appalling, to assert the least, that the tragic incident, which claimed the life of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of Pa Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere, would be used by certain persons to advance the cause of parochial politics. We intend to get to the root of the sad occurrence as we await the findings of security agencies on the unfortunate incident.

“The governors and the people of the South West are working assiduously at the current security challenges with a view to finding lasting solutions to curtail the nefarious activities of undesirable elements bent on wrecking our collective peace. We are not unaware of the antics of certain elements, who hope to garner political mileage from the contrived crises in virtually all parts of the country. We are equally convinced that this confusion serves the narrow interests of some persons.

“The country has a rich history; she has had to encounter adversities in the course of her transition to nationhood. She has overcome them all. This distraction will also pass. We look up to the security agencies to take cohesive steps to curtail this major challenge of insecurity which engenders hopelessness. We can only enjoin all citizens, on our part, to be patient and continue to cooperate with them as they combat the festering crises. We on our part have taken great strides with the hope that great success will be achieved.

“We call on all persons of Fulani extraction and indeed all Nigerians from other parts of the country resident in the South West region to discountenance the unpatriotic outburst of the Northern Elders Forum and other self-serving organisations of opportunists. All Nigerians who have legitimate reasons to be in our midst are welcome in the region. The governments and the people of the South West will protect all persons regardless of their ethnic and/or religious backgrounds. Only criminals will find our space not hospitable,” the governors declared.

A top source close to one of the governors told Saturday Tribune on Friday that the governors had commissioned and compiled reports detailing the dire security conditions of the six states for a meeting with the president next week.

“The reports are ready and will be presented to the president next week by the governors,” the source who pleaded not to be named told Saturday Tribune, while agreeing with the assertion of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, that “strange persons” have infested the forests of Yorubaland.

Oba Ogunwusi had, on Thursday, met with Buhari in Aso Rock, after which he told newsmen that he was at the Villa to tell the president that insecurity in the South-West was real and that “strange people” had taken over bushes and forests in many places.

He said the South-West needed the support of the Federal Government to flush out the militia herdsmen terrorising the people of the region, while saying that the Yoruba did not want war but the people reserved the right to defend themselves.

“I told you that it is real. We have wrong people in our midst. So, when we have wrong people in our midst, why shouldn’t we defend ourselves? That is why I came here; that in terms of defending ourselves, we need more Federal Government apparatus to defend ourselves because we don’t want to be defenceless,” the traditional leader said.