A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, on Saturday knocked the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, for attempting to defend the activities of Fulani herdsmen in the Southern part of the country.
Mohammed had said on Friday Nigerians don’t need the permission of any governor to reside anywhere in the country.
The governor, who stated this when he featured in a Channels Television’s Programme, Sunrise Daily, added that the herdsmen don’t need the permission of his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, to live in the forests in the state.
He was reacting to Akeredolu’s directive to the herdsmen to register with the state’s government in order to operate unhindered in the forest reserves.
He said: “Land is in the hands of the state and federal governments in trust but Nigerians don’t need the permission of governors or the federal government to settle everywhere.
“You don’t need the permission of the governor of Bauchi or the governor of Ondo to be in the forests of Ondo if you choose to live in the forests because under Section 41 of the constitution, you are free to settle anywhere.”
But in a statement he personally signed, the rights activists said it was hypocritical for Mohammed who demolished people’s houses because they encroached on government land as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to say that herdsmen have a right to stray into people’s land and reside in forest reserves without the government’s permission.
He also wondered why the governor who defended herdsmen carrying AK-47 rifles could go on to demolish a house storing such guns.
Falana said: “Under the Bala Mohammed administration in the FCT, thousands of houses were demolished on the grounds that they were illegally built on landed properties belonging to the Federal Government.
“The ex-minister wanted to demolish the entire Mpape housing over a million people. He had claimed that the owners of the various properties had trespassed on the land belonging to the Federal Government.
“The people whose properties had been marked for demolition briefed our law firm to seek legal redress. On behalf of the community, we approached the FCT High Court for urgent intervention. In an epochal judgment delivered by Justice Kutigi, the planned demolition was halted.
“Governor Bala Mohammed has ordered that a house being used as a den of criminal activities in Bauchi and ordered that 1,000 rifles found therein be confiscated. But the same governor said last week that herders be allowed to bear AK 47 rifles illegally despite overwhelming evidence that the weapons are being used to take over farmlands, kidnap people and rape women.
“So if the building warehousing 1000 AK-47 rifles in Bauchi was demolished by Governor Bala Mohammed why is he asking Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to allow herders armed with scores of AK-47 rifles to operate in Ondo State without licences issued by the appropriate authorities?”