Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters Ita Enang Sunday said N2.258 billion has been set aside in the 2019 budget for the implementation of the Ruga programme.
To this end, the presidential aide called on states in the southern part of the country to support the implementation of the planned cattle settlementscheme and make land available.
Controversy has persistently dogged the Ruga programme as some southern states said they had no land for the project, even as the northern states expressed readiness to implement same.
The programme was suspended by the National Economic Council (NEC), a body consisting of the federal government and all the 36 state governors.
Ebonyi state governor and chairman, National Food Security/Herders/Farmers Conflict, Mr Dave Umahi, had announced the suspension of the programme over its inconsistency with the National Economic Council (NEC) and federal government’s approved national livestock transformation plan.
Providing further insight Sunday, Senator Enang said contrary to belief in some quarters, Ruga was not a Fulani name but an acronym of Rural Grazing area (RUGA) put in place under the colonial rule since 1956.
He said this while receiving in audience students of Akwa Ibom state origin from the Nigerian Law School Abuja.
He referred to the 2019 federal budget, volume 1 under the ministry of agricultural and rural development, item number ERGP 5208 where a whooping N2.258 billion was provided and budgeted for the grazing programme.
The former lawmaker said members of the National Assembly members were not against the Ruga programme because they were aware of it and had been approving funds for its implementation.
While saying Ruga was only one component of the scheme, he said about N300 million was also budgeted for water sanitation, N400 million for the development for sweet potatoes and N350 million for ginger development amongst several other projects.
The presidential aide further said the objective of the budget for Ruga was to promote cattle breeding and quality meat production.
He described the initiative as an integrated farm system which has schools, good road, tractors and mechanisation, agricultural integration, with a provision for primary healthcare, veterinary and schools.
Further to this, Enang said apart from the main project, some monies were also budgeted for what he called emergency Ruga implementation programme approved in May by the NEC for states that would make land available.
The former lawmaker who said he had been hosting law students since 1999, however stated that the latest was targeted at enlightening them and the entire populace on what Ruga sought to achieve.
He said: “Ruga is not a plan to seize land from people neither and is it meant to fulanise or colonise anybody. The programme is meant to address the issue of cattle roaming and destruction of farmland which would put an end to the herders-farmers crisis.
“The idea of Ruga graduated in 1978 into the Land Use Act which states that a portion of land has to be reserved for grazing to avoid the destruction of farm produce by cattle.
”Over time, cattle roamed and destroyed farms hence the introduction of the policy to address the issue.”
The programme, he also said, was designed to halt the herders/farmers’ clashes, even as he expressed shock over the inability of some state governors to understand the policy.
He said, “ The federal government is not in any way trying to takeover anybody’s land for Ruga,” stating that land under the land use act is in the hands of state government.
The presidential aide faulted claims in some quarters that it was an attempt to fulanise the people.
He said the emergency Ruga programme did not involve any state in the South-east, South-west and the South-south because the areas that had the problems were about ten states mainly North-central, and a few states in North-west and North-east.
Answering questions from the law students, he said in most places wealth was measured by the number of cattle one has.
In his remark, leader of the visiting team, Mr Ndifrake Inyang said: “We came here today to pay a courtesy call on Senator Ita Enang in keeping with his 20-year tradition of hosting law students being that he is a lawyer; we came to learn from his wealth of experience.
“Today the distinguished senator took a different dimension by enlightening us on the issue of Rural Grazing Area (RUGA).
“I recalled that about two months ago, there was crisis in Taraba and Benue states. While I was growing up in my own place (Cross River state) we had a similar issue and this has been on for many years.
“I didn’t have the right notion about RUGA but I reserved my comment on that at for the time because as a lawyer you don’t have to talk until you know all the facts. So, having known the facts about the entire process, I am happy and I am in better position to educate others on the subject matter.
“Sincerely speaking, the RUGA is something that everybody would want to have because of the economic derivatives. I also want the RUGA settlement in my state Akwa Ibom so that there will be employment and our people can benefit from it and also put to an end the national crisis so that we will have one peaceful Nigeria.”