The Ondo and Benue state governments have berated the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, for backing the use of firearms by Fulani herdsmen.
Mohammed had while speaking at the closing ceremony of the 2021 Press Week of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Bauchi State Council, on Thursday said Fulani herders carried AK-47 for self-defence against attacks by cattle rustlers.
He also criticised the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, over the handling of the herder-farmer crises and faulted the notice to quit given by states in the South.
“And now, the Fulani man is practising the tradition of trans-human pastoralism. He has been exposed to the dangers of the forests, the animals, and now, the cattle rustlers, who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, his cows. He had no option but to carry an AK-47 and defend himself because the society and the government are not protecting him,” Mohammed had said.
Bauch gov’s statement means all Nigerians should own AK-47 – Akeredolu
But the Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said the statement of the Bauchi governor could usher Nigerians “into the next level on the path to anarchy.”
Akeredolu, who spoke through the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, 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 (Mohammed) 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.”
The Ondo commissioner said his Bauchi counterpart had in one breath by that statement, agreed that “indeed Fulani herdsmen carry AK-47 and at the same time encouraging all to do likewise.”
It’s shocking Bauchi gov’s violating Constitution –Ortom
The Benue State Governor, Ortom, accused the Bauchi governor of calling for lawlessness with his support for armed Fulani herders.
Ortom said the statement credited to Mohammed showed that he (Bauchi governor) had jettisoned the oath of office he swore to uphold and taken the lead in violating the provision of the Constitution.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, on Friday, read in part, “It is shocking that a colleague who took the oath of office, as I also did, to protect and preserve the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria now takes the lead in violating provisions of the same Constitution by calling for lawlessness.
“And the most shocking part of Governor Bala Mohammed’s statement was where he defended herdsmen for bearing arms saying “they have no option but to carry AK-47 because the society and the government are not protecting them.
“It will interest Nigerians to know from you (Mohammed) which section of the law supports herdsmen’s free movement around the country with sophisticated weapons.
The Benue governor advised his colleague to get himself acquainted with the horrendous activities of herders in parts of the country to enable him to stop the emotional defence and justification he has repeatedly put forward in their favour.
Meanwhile, the senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District of Ondo State, Mr Nicholas Tofowomo, has called on the Bauch governor not to throw Nigeria into a crisis.
Tofowomo, in a statement issued by his media aide, Mr Olumide Akinrinlola, described the governor’s statement as unacceptable, unfortunate and a mockery of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Peoples Democratic Party senator said, “How can your Excellency (Mohammed) justify the carrying of AK-47 by herdsmen in the name of self-defence? Sir, are you saying it is now allowed under the Constitution of Nigeria to carry AK-47 for self-defence?
“If your Excellency can give this as a justification in defence of herders that carry AK-47 in the name of self-defence to protect cows, it means vulnerable farmers and defenceless Nigerians who are being slaughtered every day on their farms can as well carry AK-49 to defend their lives and property.
“I do not expect any sitting governor in Nigeria to take a side or utter a double standard statement over this serious matter that calls for a sober reflection. Doing so will amount to an endorsement of evil being perpetrated by those herders bearing AK-47 to kill defenceless Nigerians and rape vulnerable women.”