Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), on Monday, said kidnappers in Ondo forest reserves speak Fulfulde.
The governor spoke while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme.
According to UNESCO Thesaurus, Fulfulde is the language of the Fulbe people also known as Peul or Fulani, who are found throughout West Africa.
There has been unrest in the South-West region of late over the activities of Fulani herders who have been accused of committing sundry crimes including killing, kidnapping, rape and farm destruction. In a bid to sanitise the forest, Akeredolu had ordered herdsmen to vacate the Ondo State forest reserves or be registered with the ministry of agriculture in the state.
The development had sparked controversy with the Presidency saying the governor lacked the right to order the herders to vacate the forest reserves.
But Akeredolu has since insisted that the herders must obey the constituted authority in the state or leave his domain.
Speaking on Monday, he said, “What we had to address in Ondo State is essentially our discovery that some criminal elements were using our forest reserves to perpetrate crimes and we said, look, we are not going to stay by and just watch this happen.
“People are kidnapped, they are not kidnapped and taken into a house; most of those who were kidnapped have come back and we have debriefed them, we have been briefed by all of them and we know essentially the group of people involved and that they were taken into our forest reserves.
“Our farmers who operate there are licensed to be there, so anybody who wants to go there must be licensed to be there. If you are not licensed to be there to do a legitimate economic venture, then you are a criminal element, we are going to ask you to leave the place.
“It is the order of the day that every person that is kidnapped is taken to this forest. Then, we must clear that forest of all criminals, we must clear all the criminals no matter who they are.”
There have also been comments by some northern governors that criminal herders in the South-West region and in order parts of the country are Fulani from neighbouring West African countries and not Fulani herders of Nigerian origin but Akeredolu said it was the responsibility of the security agencies to fish them out.
Continuing, the governor said, “How am I to know where they have come from? How did you allow them in, in the first instance. My duty is not to profile those who come into the country but all I know very clearly is that those who are perpetrating this crime speak the same language, they have a common language like some people here in this country. That is where our problem lies.
“Whether they are foreigners or from here, it is a matter for the police, it is a matter for our security (agencies) to go into fully and be able to identify them. But what we have when we debrief those who have been kidnapped is that the language they hear is what matters to them.”
When asked specifically to name the language of the kidnappers, Akeredolu said, “Most of them were speaking Fulfulde and there is no need for us to run away from it. This is a common language that is spoken across the length and breadth particularly in West Africa and North Africa. So, if they come in, how did they come in?”
“Miyetti Allah does not have to defend these people if they are not their members. There is no need to defend them; let us treat them as what they are –criminals and they (Miyetti Allah) themselves should support us in getting them out,” the governor added.
Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, further said the governors in the zone are expected to meet with the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and the newly appointed service chiefs on Wednesday over the security challenges of the region.