Herdsmen will not be allowed to operate in Ondo State’s forest reserves without permission, the state government insisted yesterday.
The insistence came against the backdrop of Tuesday’s caution by the presidency against the seven-day ultimatum the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), gave to herders to quit the forest reserves.
The presidency’s intervention stoked the controversy over the quit order as the pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which supported the governor, clashed with the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) that opposed the decision.
In a statement in Akure yesterday, the state government, in a tacit repudiation of the presidency’s intervention, said no herdsman will graze on the forest reserves in the state without permission.
The state Commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development, Mr. Adegboyega Adefarati, said in the statement that over 50,000 farmers have been registered to engage in various agricultural activities in the state’s forest reserves and no herder will be permitted to graze without going through the same process.
It said: “We have registered over fifty (50,000) thousands of farmers who engage in different forms of agricultural activities in Ondo State Government Forest Reserves. With this, we regulate their activities and reduce criminality as we interface daily with farmers.
“Love it or leave it; farming is farming, be it crop production or animal husbandry. If any Nigerian irrespective of his/her state of origin desires land for farming in Government Forest Reserves, he/she must apply to Ondo State Ministry of Agriculture and pay the normal fee for the required hectares of land.
“It is illegal for herdsmen to encroach on the Ondo State Government Forest Reserves without permission and graze on the farms, many of which will be destroyed.”