Barely 72 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari asked Fulani herdsmen in the South to ignore the call by northern elders asking them to return to the North, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella body for Fulani herdsmen in the country, has asked its members to defend themselves against any ethnic militia group in the country, saying herders should exercise their rights to free movement as Nigerians.
The National Secretary of the group, Saleh Alhassan, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, also said that governors in the southern part of the country would be held responsible if any of their members was attacked.
The South-East Governors Forum, through its Director-General, Prof Simon Ortuanya, had recently warned that movement of cattle into the zone by foot would no longer be allowed except through trucks to specific cow markets to avoid the incessant clashes between herders and farmers.
The position of the governors was echoed by the Ohanaeze Youth Council worldwide a few days ago when it warned herdsmen to stop moving around bushes and farmlands across the South-East.
The council’s President General, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, pointed out that starting from Saturday, July 20, 2019 (today), there would be severe consequences if herdsmen were caught moving around on foot with their cattle.
Also, the Yoruba nationalist organisation, Oodua Peoples Congress, had through its President, Prince Osibote Oodua, warned kidnappers and herdsmen engaged in criminal activities to stop or they would be forced to vacate the region. It stressed that it was ready to flush out those abducting innocent Nigerians.
The leadership of the three indigenous youth groups from the major southern geopolitical zones, including the Ijaw Youth Council in the South-South, had equally said three days ago that they could no longer tolerate the killings and threats from herdsmen in the zones.
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Following the warnings, members of the Northern Elders Forum and the Coalition of the Northern Groups had on Tuesday asked herdsmen to leave the southern part of the country and return to the North where their safety could be guaranteed, a directive the President and all the southern groups had condemned.