Disobey at your peril, Akeredolu tells illegal occupants of forest reserves

• I'm prepared to defend my people ― Akeredolu

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, on Monday, reiterated his administration commitment to defend the people of the state, just as he warned illegal occupants of forest reserves in the state to leave or risk the wrath of the law.

Akeredolu who stated this during the inauguration of the new Secretary to the State Government and four other Special Advisers in Akure, also condemned Saturday’s attack and assassination attempts on the governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom, by suspected killer herdsmen.

Akeredolu said there is no going back on the state decision on the quit order to herders in the state forest reserves, warning the illegal occupants to so do at their peril.

He said: “May we use this occasion to reiterate our position on the eviction of all trespassers occupying our forests. We will continue to eject and punish, in accordance with the law, anyone, either herder or farmer illegally occupying our forest reserves.

“We will not relent on our decision to rid our state of undesirable elements. We owe no one any further explanation or apology on this resolution to ensure peace other than our people.

“Anyone who intends to engage in a private business of animal husbandry, in this age, must be ready to abide with the modern methods or quit.

“We, therefore, reiterate our stance on the prohibition of open grazing by cattle rearers in any part of Ondo State. On this, there shall be no compromise. In a similar vein, we will continue to arrest any under-age herders in the state.

“The Government will prosecute the mindless handlers of these unfortunate kids. We will insist on punishing any errant herdsman and exact compensation commensurate to the level of destruction of farms and businesses in any part of the State.

“Anyone who commits a crime under the guise of outmoded pastoralism shall be sanctioned severely. We will proceed to mobilise the people against this menace. The people of Ondo State will not accept any aberrant incursion into our space.”

Akeredolu, while speaking on the need to protect the people of the state, stated that “This administration, under our leadership, will not shirk its responsibilities in any manner. We will not mortgage the future of the coming generations for political expediency. We do not want to be seen as politically correct when our people are dying and/or losing their legitimate means of livelihood.

“We shall not embrace the counsel of the treacherous and wicked. The welfare of the people shall remain the primary focus of governance. No one will be allowed to trample on the rights of our people. The people of Ondo State shall not become underlings in their own space.

“We will also not be afraid to take decisions considered beneficial to our people. We shall be encouraging all those interested in animal husbandry to embrace new methods.

“Indigenes of this state who wish to take to that aspect of agriculture shall enjoy the support of the government. Non-indigenes with verifiable identities shall be allowed to bring in cattle to designated Ranches and Feedlots.

“They shall be permitted to graze on the Ranches for a fee. We will not cede the land of our ancestors to any person under any guise. All legitimate endeavours shall be supported by the Government for as long as they are of direct benefit to the people of Ondo State.”

The governor who disclosed the intent of the state government to participate in the Federal Government National Livestock Transformation Programme explained that “there is the compelling need to explain the logic behind the participation to avoid misunderstanding and deliberate twisting of facts to score a political point.

“This programme aims at encouraging any private businessman who takes interest in breeding cattle to participate in the modern methods for profit. It is not about sustaining the antiquated cultural practice which allows cattle to move from the remotest parts of the Sahel region to the savannah.

“It is not about a settlement of an ethnic group foreign to Ondo State on our land. It is to be funded by the Federal Government, our people must be active participants on our soil. The state shall generate revenue from cattle feeding in ranches, slaughtering of cows, among others. Pastoralism is not the exclusive preserve of an ethnic group.

“Trends in the modern business of animal husbandry should be of direct concern to the State. The proposed ranches shall not be for human habitation in Ondo State.

“All those who bring in cattle and the herds shall be registered. Nobody will be allowed to form new settlements on our ancestral lands. Cattle rearing shall be for business, strictly, in Ondo State.

Distancing himself and the people of the state from secession agenda and agitation from some people across the country, the governor attributed the agitations to grievances arising from the challenges of nationhood.

The governor said: “The noises generated by seeming inaction or passive indifference on the part of elected and appointed representatives of the Government at all levels appears to be responsible for the growing disaffection in the land.

“Why some have been measured in their reactions to these problems, others have been less diplomatic. It is not uncommon to find groups and individuals purporting to act or speak on behalf of the rest of us.

“While it is the right of citizens to discuss, agitate and even fight to right perceived wrongs, culminating in self-determination, this must be done within known and acceptable parameters.

“All concerned must be ad idem, that is, agree to pursue the same objectives to achieve a desirable or desired end. There must be a common platform through which the demands, from the most mundane to the sublime, must be presented.

“There must be a general consensus, articulated and presented after rigorous engagements on the level of intellection as the agendum for action.

“The reasons for the declaration of hostilities must not be fleeting fancies of disaffection engendered by perceived politics of exclusion for personal benefits. Self-determination must be a collective programme of action.”

He however said: “I state, unequivocally, as the governor of Ondo State, elected by the people to serve them and protect their interests, that our people have elected to stay in the Federal Republic of Nigeria as constituted at present.

“We recognise that there are reasons to demand that certain anomalies be put right. We will continue to encourage dialogue as an effective tool in resolving disputes. We will also not shy from joining others to insist on socio-economic justice. We will, however, not subscribe to banditry and recklessness in putting forth our demands.”

But said “consequently, no part of the entire state, known and delineated as Ondo State, shall permit any gathering or agitation which may suggest, however remotely, that we are in support of unthinking rabble-rousing.

“We will not be led to assured annihilation by anyone or a group of people, still smarting from the electoral defeats of recent times and presumed exclusion from the process of decision-making. Our people are knowledgeable enough to determine their interest at any point.

“If and when they consider self-determination as an option, they will not depend on external promptings to act. That is why we are different. That is why we are who we are. And that is the way it is going to be.”

Speaking on the attack on Ortom, Akeredolu said: “I must pause to condemn, in the strongest term possible, the most recent cowardly attack on the convoy of the Benue State Governor, Mr Samuel Ortom.

“I call on the security agencies to unmask the agents of darkness bent on throwing this country into a state of anarchy. We note that the authorities have assured the people of Benue and Nigerians alike that the perpetrators will face justice.

“May we, therefore, admonish those saddled with the responsibility of unravelling the mystery to ensure that, as it has been in other incidents, the investigation being conducted is thorough and not open-ended. This will reassure Nigerians of the seriousness of our security agencies.

“This unfortunate incident underscores the importance of restructuring the security architecture in the country. We will not be tired of demanding that the right thing be done. I have spoken.”

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Disobey at your peril, Akeredolu tells illegal occupants of forest reserves

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