The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) says it is high time northerners come to the understanding that Nigeria belongs to all, and that no section or region owns the country.
Owing to the rising insecurity in Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu, the governor, had asked herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserves.
The governor had said “bad elements” have turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.
In Oyo, Sunday Igboho, a youth leader, also issued an ultimatum to Fulani herders in Ibarapa local government area of the state.
Reacting, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) had expressed concern over the eviction notice, saying the attack on the Fulani in the southern region is setting Nigeria on a dangerous path.
To address the conflicts and insecurity, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) also asked the federal government to give bailout funds to herdsmen to buy land in states for ranching.
But PANDEF, in a statement by Ken Robinson, its national publicity secretary, asked why the northern elders had been quiet while herdsmen were “arrogantly conducting themselves as landlords of Nigeria” and attacking people.
The forum said now that the southerners are taking steps to guard their people, NEF has suddenly found its voice in defence of the herdsmen.
It said cattle rearing is a private business and those involved should build their own ranches instead of terrorising and taking over people’s lands.
“PANDEF implores the Northern Elders and their surrogates to get off the high-horse. And the sooner, the better, for the country, and all of us. Nigeria belongs to all of us, no section owns the country more than the other; we are equal stakeholders,” the forum said.
“Where was the Northern Elders Forum when arm-wielding herdsmen were killing, harassing innocent citizens, and raping women in their farms?
“Northern Elders did not realize then that they were setting the country on a dangerous path. Meyitti Allah Cattle Rearers group has been arrogantly conducting themselves like ‘landlords’ of Nigeria, without any demonstration.
“It is now that southern governors have begun taking appropriate steps to safeguard lives and livelihoods of their people, that Northern elders have found their voice in defense of the herdsmen.
“It is a pity that in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria, one ethnic group would make itself a content of crisis. For goodness’ sake, cattle rearing is a private business; let those involved establish ranches, instead of taking over lands and terrorizing communities.
“The killings, kidnappings, and other criminal activities being perpetrated by herdsmen will not be allowed to continue.
“While PANDEF would denounce any attacks on innocent citizens, by any group, in any part of the country, it is important to emphasize that the prohibition of open grazing and movement of cattle, as well as the ejection orders to groups who have been illegally and forcefully occupying forests, are pertinent and indisputable.”