The government of Ondo State on Wednesday described the statement issued by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media, Garba Shehu on the herdsmen situation in Ondo State as dangerous for national unity.
It would be recalled that the State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu issued a 7-day ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate forest reserves in the State.
But the Presidency in a statement signed by Garba Shehu challenged the directive by the government.
Reacting to Mr Shehu’s statement on a TV programme, the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo expressed doubt if President Muhamadu Buhari indeed approved that statement.
“One thing is certain, President Muhammad Buhari, by his antecedent, nationalistic posture and the patriotism he is known for, may not have ordered that statement.
“Because it would have been a dangerous one for the unity of this country.
“If true, it would mean certain officials in the Presidency are actually out to create a problem for President Buhari. We must appreciate the effort of this President in his fight against insecurity across the country.
“If indeed he (Shehu) issued the statement, then Garba Shehu owes this nation a great deal of explanation to let people know why he must take up the fight of people masquerading as herdsmen to commit a crime.”
The Commissioner added that the ultimatum was not for law-abiding herdsmen to vacate the State, rather the forest reserves which he described as “monuments and treasure of the people of the southwest.”
He revealed that kidnapped victims are taken to those forest reserves by kidnappers. He disclosed further that criminals are mingling with herdsmen in the forest.
“Some of these criminal elements have gone to mingle with the Fulani herdsmen who have occupied portions of these forest reserves as settlements.
“In any case, kidnap victims are taken into deep into forest reserves. And security agencies have enough evidence that these victims are taken there. So the government is trying to clear the mess by way of regulating the activities of herdsmen.”
Meanwhile, following denials by the Zamfara state government, a former state official has insisted that Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle of Zamfara State gave cars to bandits.
A former council chairman of Maradun Local Government of Zamfara State, Hon. Ahmad Abubakar made this allegation during an interview with newsmen.
Hon. Abubakar pointed out that the recent terror attack on Janbako community, in Maradun Local Government Area was facilitated by the donation of three new Hilux vans, which the bandits used in their operation, resulting in the killing of ten innocent villagers.
“On that fateful day, the bandits, who stormed the community in their hundreds, with unnumbered motorbikes were confronted with stiff resistance from the villagers. This sent red signals to the bandits, forcing them to retreat and abandoning one of the Hilux vehicles, loaded with assorted ammunition and three rifles,” he claimed.
He further accused the army and the police of nonchalant attitude, alleging that in most cases they abandoned their constitutional responsibility, only to reappear after the bandits have killed, maimed their victims, and gone unharassed.
The ex-council boss blamed the newsmen in the State for what he called “failure to report what is actually happening in the State, but only focusing on the issue of insecurity.
“Unfortunately, the working journalists in the state have abandoned the four attributes of the profession which authorized journalists to inform, attack the government’s wrong policies, defend the public interest and influence good policies of the government.”
However, in a statement signed and made available to newsmen in Gusau, the State capital by the Special Adviser to the Governor on media and public enlightenment, Hon. Zailani Bappa, the governor’s spokesman described the report as a sheer mischief.
Bappa noted that the medium joined forces with the enemies of peace to destroy the political dynasty of Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle.
According to him, “the report may be either due to carelessness, quackery or sheer mischief; the medium went ahead to publish this mischievous story, which was obviously sourced from the enemies of peace in the state without balancing from the side of the Government.
“To disabuse the minds of the law-abiding and patriotic Nigerians, Governor Bello Mohammed used the meager resources of the state Government to purchase 200 Hilux vans in support of Security operatives in the state.
“These vehicles were duly distributed to all security agencies in the state under the supervision of the Inspector-General of Police, and the beneficiaries included the Military, the Police, the Customs and Excise, the Immigration Services, the NDLEA, the NSCDC, the FRSC, among others.
“With all the programs of the state government towards peace in the state, there was never a time it gave vehicles or money to the so-called repentant bandits as there was no agreement to such. The report was a wicked allegation and simply a figment of the writer’s imagination or an intended machination to discredit the administration of Bello Muhammad and undermine the peace effort in the State.
“The State government also calls on the Nigerian Military to require Sahara Reporters to substantiate their faceless and distinctly imaginary so-called Military officer source of this story because it borders on peace and it’s a matter of life and death of innocent citizens or face required discipline.”