The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has lashed out at the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) saying the latter is defending violent herdsmen.
The herders, who mostly reside in bushes from where they allegedly indulge in nefarious activities, have recently come under attack in some southern states. While they were ordered out of forest reserves in Ondo, their kinsmen in Oyo and Ogun are being evicted, based on testimonials from kidnap victims indicting them as arrowheads of insecurity.
Reacting, the NEF urged the herdsmen, often accused of carrying out criminal activities mostly in Southern Nigeria, to return to the North if they are evicted from their place of abode, saying the expulsion is setting the nation on a dangerous part.
In its response in a statement by Ken Robinson, its national publicity secretary, PANDEF queried why the NEF suddenly found its voice in defense of the problematic herders.
“PANDEF implores the Northern Elders and their surrogates to get off the high-horse. And the sooner, the better, for the country, and all of us. Nigeria belongs to all of us, no section owns the country more than the other; we are equal stakeholders,” the forum said.
“Where was the Northern Elders Forum when arm-wielding herdsmen were killing, harassing innocent citizens, and raping women in their farms?
“Northern Elders did not realize then that they were setting the country on a dangerous path. Meyitti Allah Cattle Rearers group has been arrogantly conducting themselves like ‘landlords’ of Nigeria, without any demonstration.
“It is now that southern governors have begun taking appropriate steps to safeguard lives and livelihoods of their people, that Northern elders have found their voice in defense of the herdsmen.
“It is a pity that in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria, one ethnic group would make itself a content of crisis. For goodness’ sake, cattle rearing is a private business; let those involved establish ranches, instead of taking over lands and terrorizing communities.
“The killings, kidnappings, and other criminal activities being perpetrated by herdsmen will not be allowed to continue.
“While PANDEF would denounce any attacks on innocent citizens, by any group, in any part of the country, it is important to emphasize that the prohibition of open grazing and movement of cattle, as well as the ejection orders to groups who have been illegally and forcefully occupying forests, are pertinent and indisputable,” it added.