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Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State has said to his Ondo State counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, that no Nigerian needs his (Akeredolu’s) permission to live in the forests of the state.
Mohammed, in a fresh outburst on the recent order by the Ondo State governor that criminals should vacate government forest reserves, said it is the prerogative of every Nigerian to reside wherever he desires.
He also said that his reference to the right of herders to carry AK 47 to protect themselves and their cattle was only a figure of speech. He spoke on Channels Television.
“Land is in the hands of the state and federal governments in trust but Nigerians don’t need the permission of governors or the federal government to settle everywhere,” Bala Mohammed said.
“You don’t need the permission of the governor of Bauchi or the governor of Ondo to be in the forests of Ondo if you choose to live in the forests because under Section 41 of the constitution, you are free to settle anywhere.”
In his first reaction, penultimate Friday, to the Ondo State eviction order on criminals occupying its forest reserves, Mohammed had berated his colleagues in South-West and South-East for the manner in which they are handling the herders’ crisis and claimed they are not accommodating people from other ethnic groups.
He said: “You have seen what our colleagues in the South-West are doing and some of them in South-East. Some of us told them with all modesty and humility – you are wrong.”
He said herders “have no option than to carry AK47 because the society and the government are not protecting them.
“It is not his (herder’s) fault, it is the fault of the government and the people; you don’t criminalize all of them because in every tribe there are criminals. You should be very sensitive. We have to be careful.”
But following the barrage of criticism that trailed his backing for the carrying of AK47 by herders, Mohammed was back on the same platform yesterday, defending his choice of words.
He said: “It is a figure of speech to show you the despondence, the desperation and frustration and the agony that this particular person is exposed to by his own people, by his own tribe and by other tribes who have all seen him as a criminal and therefore, he has the inalienable right to protect himself.
“What I said in that context, I was addressing the media people. And the topic was the use of the media to foster national unity and I was trying to situate the problem.
“The Fulani man is so exposed, dehumanized, demonized. In fact, because he is being seen as a bandit and so, anywhere he goes, he is being pursued. Not only in the southwest or the southeast, even in the north because he is in the cattle route, his commonwealth which I call his cows, are being taken and rustled and of course, sometimes, they are fined beyond your imagination.
“If one cow strays into the farm because the cattle route has been taken away illegally without the authority giving permission, he will be fined seriously, mercilessly.
“And so, he is exposed and then he has no option but to protect himself. We have so many vigilante groups in Nigeria even at the level of government, sub-regional groups, sub nationals are establishing vigilante groups to make sure that their communities are protected. Why wouldn’t the Fulani man protect himself? And if he carries a gun in order to protect himself, it may not be a legal carriage, it may be legal. He may also register and carry it to protect himself.”
Governor Akeredolu, last weekend, labeled Mohammed’s advocacy for herders to carry the assault gun as careless and despicable.
He said: “We read with dismay, the outburst in the purported statement by the Bauchi state governor. We are persuaded to believe he didn’t make that statement.
“If indeed he made that statement and owns up to its contents, it then means that the Bauchi state governor has declared on behalf of the federal government, an executive order which now allows all Nigerians, herdsmen inclusive, to carry prohibited firearms like assault rifles for self-defence.
“That is exactly what the governor has done and displayed by his conduct which brazenly depicts that whether other Nigerians like it or not, herdsmen must carry AK 47 for self-defence while other non-Fulani herdsmen must remain unarmed to be perpetual victims of arms wielding bandits.
“By that statement, the governor has in one breath, agreed that indeed Fulani herdsmen carry AK 47 and at the same time encouraging all to do likewise.
“The Bauchi governor has by his conduct and attitude, ushered us into the next level on the path to anarchy. He’s not fit for public office, persons of such impecunious disposition and character is not fit for public office.
“As long as Nigeria’s consideration remains unchanged, it is still unlawful for any unauthorised persons to carry prohibited arms. The statement is most despicable, highly recommended for the dust bin of careless talks.”
Akeredolu to Mohammed: Don’t set Nigeria on fire with your thoughts
Reacting ,last night,to Mohammed’s latest comments,Governor Akeredolu said he would not ““engage or confront anyone who has the mindset of a crisis entrepreneur or war monger.
“Very provoking and insensitive as the statement appears, we can only err on the side of caution by advising Governor Bala Mohammed not set Nigeria on fire by his thoughts that are highly destructive and undermining national cohesion.
“Nigerians should ignore him and rather focus on those issues that can bring about peace and engender unity. He is stronger war monger than killers and criminals under any guise and without any colouration”
The Ondo State governor spoke through his Special Assistant on New Media,Olabode Olatunde.