Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the eviction notice given to Fulani herdsmen in Ondo state by governor Rotimi Akeredolu is not out of place.
The governor said the evacuation order was prompted by reports linking the herdsmen to the heightened insecurity in the state, adding that the herdsmen use the forest as hideout to commit all manner of atrocities.
The order was greeted with stiff opposition from the presidency with Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, saying the governor has no power to oust the herdsmen from ondo forest as such action violates the freedom of movement enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.
Reacting to the Akeredolu’s Directive, Falana, who spoke on Sunday while featuring on “The Platform”, a Television Continental (TVC) programme, implored the Nigerian government to stop giving preferential treatment to Fulanis.
Falana said the forestry reserve law in the state requires mandatory registration for those who want to carry out operations there.
The human rights advocate said the federal government has been selective in the application and implementation of laws that have to do with the defense of Nigerians rights.
He said the federal government is always vocal when it comes to standing up for Fulani herdsmen but are indifferent to the plight of thousands of poor, destitute beggars that pervade the country.
“There is nothing strange whether you are talking of Benue or Ekiti state or whatever. The federal government has come in to defend herders, whether anti-grazing law or whatever. At the same time, the federal government does not defend the poor, the beggars, the destitute and others who are forcefully arrested and deported to their states of origin,” he said.
“The federal government does not bother because they belong to the flotsam and jetsam of the society. So, that is why people are wondering.
He opined that the federal government has put itself in position that make people now see it as defender of herders “and it is not very good.”
Falana, however, averred that the right thing for Miyetti Allah association in Ondo to have done was to meet with the governor and registered its members so that they can continue with their cattle rearing business in the state.
“That shouldn’t have attracted any controversy. What one would have expected the Miyetti Allah group in Ondo state to do is to ensure that all their members are registered; no more no less,” he said.
Falana also implored the presidency and the Ondo government to ensure that the conflict between herders and farmers does not spiral out of control.
“I think that the federal government and the Ondo state government should ensure that this matter does not get out of hand, once the impression is being given that the state government is deporting herders,” he said.
“While the federal government portraying itself as the defender of herders is not very good, the federal government must defend all Nigerians, and at the same time also ensure that the laws of the country are complied with.”