By; AMOS TAUNA, Kaduna
The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), has said that it is in total support of ridding Ondo State of bandits and criminal elements as contained in the ultimatum handed down on criminal herders by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
The National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, in a statement said, “As the umbrella organisation representing ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt region, the MBF is in total support of ridding Ondo State of bandits and criminal elements as contained in the ultimatum handed down on criminal herders by the governor.
“As the Chief Security Officer of Ondo State, Governor Akeredolu is rightly entitled to protect citizens that are now under constant siege by criminal elements.”
The forum explained that it is worried at the turn of events in the South-west and the order issued by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, for the arrest of Mr Sunday Adeyemo, AKA Igboho, over his alleged role in the violence that took place at the weekend in Oyo state.
The statement stated, “While we welcome the bold decision by the governor to protect lives and property of citizens threatened by the activities of bandits that have now found safe havens in forests, we are completely opposed to any action by the Federal Government to escalate the ongoing tension as demonstrated by the arrest order on Igboho.”
The forum noted that “For those who insist that the quit order on criminal herders amounts to infringing the citizenship rights of Fulani, the Forum wishes to reiterate that Akeredolu’s quit order is to unregistered herders occupying the forests and involved in kidnappings and banditry.”
“The MBF wishes to state that it is unacceptable for the Federal Government to interfere in the genuine efforts deployed by Governor Akeredolu to end the ceaseless abductions of peaceful citizens for ransom.
“We find it inscrutable for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration to insist on defending criminals whose major preoccupation is unleashing violence and terror on peaceful communities, the statement explained.
The forum observed that what the Federal Government should do now is to assist Akeredolu and other state governors to flush out these criminals and end the culture of lawlessness ripping across not only Ondo, but also other states where these outlaws have turned our nation’s forest reserves into safe harbors for their crimes.
It recalled that in the height of grisly killings and devastations that trailed many communities in Benue state, President Buhari had called on the people to return home and learn to live with their neighbours in peace.
“When neighbours decide to turn themselves into agents of terror on their fellow neighbours who are peace-loving, then, such neighbours are no longer neighbours but outlaws that must be arrested and be made to face the law,” the forum noted.
The MBF stated that the only way to end these vicious assaults by these bandits is to completely flush them out of the nation’s forest reserves. “We cannot continue to play the ostrich as Nigerian communities continue to suffer bloodshed due to increasing waves of vicious and unprovoked attacks on defenceless citizens by these vicious brigands,” the forum added.
The forum observed, “With many states, especially in the Middle Belt Region, now under the menace of these outlaws, we call for both the Federal Government and the states to adopt the policy of ranching as means of ending the security challenges posed by these criminal herders.
“We call on state governors to emulate Akeredolu’s quit order in order to cleanse Nigeria’s forest reserves of vicious brigands. In this modern age noted for global best practices, the adoption of the policy of ranching has become an urgent and irrevocable option.”
It called on the Federal Government, especially the Police, to desist from escalating the crisis, adding that what the Presidency and the Police ought to do now is to assist various states to flush out these criminals.
“Arresting Igboho at this moment can only escalate the growing tension into a raging fury that may further lead to dreadful uncertainties for our nation’s future,” it said.
The statement explained, “We stand in solidarity with Governor Akeredolu on his resolve to rid the forest reserves of bandits engaged in kidnappings and other crimes.”
The forum called on the Federal Government and other state governors to work in partnership and end the terror perpetrated by these bandits whose occupation of the country’s forest reserves have become present and future dangers to Nigeria as a nation.