Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun has urged the Federal Government to act swiftly to rid the country’s forests of criminals launching attacks on innocent citizens.
Abiodun, who stated this, at the weekend, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, noted that although there are people legitimately residing in the forests, such places have also become the habitation of criminals stoking ethnic tensions in parts of the country.
He also urged the Federal Government to initiate concrete steps to tighten the country’s borders to prevent the influx of foreigners who engage in criminal activities and flee to their countries.
“We’ve enjoined all our Serikis (local northern traditional leaders) and our farmers to keep a list of those that live on their farms in registers so that when strangers come in, they will know who are strangers among them.
“It is our hope that the Federal Government will also now look at how to better secure our borders so that people don’t just cross our borders, cause crimes and run away.
“These forests that we now see are places that continue to harbour criminals.
“We know there are people that live in the forest legitimately, but there are so many people that live in those forests illegitimately. We must definitely do something about those forests.”
“These are some of the things that we found to have aided this violence and escalated it and we believe that if the right steps are taken, we can manage the situation and we can live together as brothers and sisters, as we’ve always lived for so many years,” the governor said.
Abiodun, who blamed the increase in tensions on ethnic profiling of criminals, said that people in the state found it difficult to distinguish between peaceful Fulani herders and criminal cattle rustlers, adding: “I must say that the Fulani have lived with us in Ogun State for hundreds of years. The Seriki Fulani from that particular corridor speaks better Yoruba than I do because his father was born there.
“Part of the problems we realised we had was ethnic profiling; criminals are criminals and criminals abound everywhere. There are criminals in Yorubaland, Igboland and in the Niger Delta. There are criminals in the North.
“Our people have had a problem with drawing a line between peaceful Fulani people, who are traditionally herdsmen, and bandits who are cattle rustlers. Farmers and indigenes now carry out counter attacks against innocent people that have been living with us.”