Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the federal government is portraying itself as the “defender of herders” in the country.
Falana stated this on Sunday while featuring on “The Platform”, a Television Continental (TVC) programme. The human rights lawyer, who lamented the state of insecurity in the country, called on the federal government to defend the rights of all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or class.
His comments followed the directive issued by Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo, that herders should vacate the state’s forest reserves as part of efforts to tackle kidnapping and banditry. Akeredolu, however, added that those who wish to continue with their cattle-rearing business in the forest reserves should register with the appropriate authorities. But in a swift response, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said the governor cannot order herders out of Ondo, adding that the action could set off a chain of events “which the makers of our constitution foresaw and tried to guard against”.
Reacting, Falana said the forestry reserve law in the state requires compulsory registration for those who want to carry out operations there.
According to the lawyer, the federal government has not showed enough commitment to protecting all Nigerians.
“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.
“The federal government is portraying itself as the defender of herders and it is not very good.”
The human rights lawyer, however, noted that Akeredolu’s directive should not have generated controversy in the country, adding that the Miyetti Allah association in the state should have met 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 urged the presidency and the Ondo government to ensure that the conflict between herders and farmers does not get out of hand.
“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.
Pix: Barrister Femi Falana (SAN)