By Hassan Zaggi
The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has called on the Federal Government and state governors to work in partnership and end the terror perpetrated by bandits whose occupation of the country’s forest reserves have become present and future dangers to Nigeria as a nation.
It also said that it is in full support of the ultimatum issued by the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, for bandits and criminals to vacate forests around the state.
In a statement signed by its President, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the MBF called on both the federal and states governments to adopt ranching policy as the only means of putting an end to security challenges posed by criminal herders in different parts of the country.
The statement further stressed that: “As the umbrella organisation representing ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt region, the MBF is in total support of ridding Ondo State of bandits and criminal elements as contained in the ultimatum handed down on criminal herders by the governor.
“As the Chief Security Officer of Ondo State, Governor Akeredolu is rightly entitled to protect citizens that are now under constant siege by criminal elements.
“For those who insist that the quit order on criminal herders amounts to infringing the citizenship rights of Fulani, the Forum wishes to reiterate that Akeredolu’s quit order is to unregistered herders occupying the forests and involved in kidnappings and banditry.”
The MBF reiterated that it is unacceptable for the Federal Government to interfere in the genuine efforts deployed by Governor Akeredolu to end the ceaseless abductions of peaceful citizens for ransom.
“We find it inscrutable for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration to insist on defending criminals whose major preoccupation is unleashing violence and terror on peaceful communities.
“What the Federal Government should do now is to assist Akeredolu and other state governors to flush out these criminals and end the culture of lawlessness ripping across not only Ondo, but also other states where these outlaws have turned our nation’s forest reserves into safe harbors for their crimes,” it stressed.
The MBF insisted that, “the only way to end these vicious assaults by these bandits is to completely flush them out of our nation’s forest reserves.
“We cannot continue to play the ostrich as Nigerian communities continue to suffer bloodshed due to increasing waves of vicious and unprovoked attacks on defenceless citizens by these vicious brigands.
“With many states, especially in the Middle Belt Region, now under the menace of these outlaws, we call for both the Federal Government and the states to adopt the policy of ranching as means of ending the security challenges posed by these criminal herders.
“We call on state governors to emulate Akeredolu’s quit order in order to cleanse Nigeria’s forest reserves of vicious brigands. In this modern age noted for global best practices, the adoption of the policy of ranching has become an urgent and irrevocable option.
“We call on the Federal Government, especially the Police, to desist from escalating the crisis. What the Presidency and the Police ought to do now is to assist various states to flush out these criminals. Arresting Igboho at this moment can only escalate the growing tension into a raging fury that may further lead to dreadful uncertainties for our nation’s future.
“We stand in solidarity with Governor Akeredolu on his resolve to rid the forest reserves of bandits engaged in kidnappings and other crimes. “