Ondo State Government has accused Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu of backing criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen.
It insisted herders must obey the seven-day quit order by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu for them to leave the forest reserves in the state.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, stated this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.
He reacted to a statement on Tuesday by Shehu cautioning Akeredolu on the quit notice.
The Commissioner said it was hard to believe Buhari endorsed the statement by the presidency, challenging Shehu to explain why he has taken up the fight of criminal elements who masquerade as herdsmen.
Shehu, in a statement on Tuesday night, defended the right of the herders to dwell anywhere in the country, saying the governor cannot “unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals”.
He said: “One thing is certain, President Muhammadu Buhari by his antecedents, by his nationalistic posture and by his patriotism that he is known for, may not have directed that statement. I am almost persuaded to think that Garba Shehu didn’t issue that statement because that would have been a very dangerous one for the unity of this country. I am waiting to confirm and if it is true, then, he may have miscommunicated properly to the people of Nigeria.”
Ojogo said if confirmed that Shehu made the statement, “it would mean that certain persons in the presidency, certain officials in the presidency are actually out to create a problem for President Muhammadu Buhari. We must appreciate the efforts of this president in his fight against insecurity across this country. Insecurity is becoming a national issue; no part of the country is insulated from the crisis.
“If Shehu indeed issued that statement, then, he owes the people of this country a great deal of explanation to let people know why he must take up the fight of criminal elements.
“I do not believe by his pedigree that he might want to offer himself as the spokesperson for people masquerading as herdsmen and committing crimes.
“I don’t want to believe he has offered himself as the spokesperson for criminal elements who are operating under herdsmen.”
Ojogo explained security agents have enough facts that victims of kidnappings in the state were being taken into the thick of the forest reserves by criminal elements who have infiltrated the ranks of the Fulani herdsmen who occupy portions of the forest reserves.
He maintained that the state government was bent on clearing the “mess” hence, all herdsmen in the forest reserves must vacate the place before Monday, 25 January 2021.