The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang at the weekend called on states in the southern part of the country to support the implementation of the proposed RUGA cattle settlement programme by making land available.
According to him, N2.258 billion was provided for its implementation in the 2019 budget.
He spoke in Abuja while hosting students of Law School Abuja from Akwa Ibom State.
He explained the word – RUGA is not derived from Hausa or Fulani, but an acronym for Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) initiated in 1956 during the colonial era.
He also assured it was not intended to Islamise, Fulanise or colonise anybody.
He said that the budgetary provision is in volume 1 under the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural development item number ERGP 5208 where the sum of N2.258bn was provided and budgeted for the grazing programme.
He said that National Assembly members are not against the Ruga programme because they are aware of it and has been approving funds for its implementation.
Besides the over N2 billion appropriated for the Ruga, he said that there were also budgeted sum of N300 million for water sanitation, N400 million development for sweet potatoes, 350 million for ginger development amongst several other provisions.
The RUGA policy, he said, is just one component of the budget under the ministry of agriculture.
He added that the objective of the budget for RUGA is to promote cattle breeding and meat production.
The RUGA programme, he said,is an integrated farm system which has schools, good road, tractors and mechanisatiom, agricultural integration with a provision for primary healthcare, vetinery, schools.
Apart from the budgeted sum for RUGA in the 2019 budget, there is another sum provided for the emergency Ruga implementation programme approved in May by the National Economic Council for states that will make land available.
Enang said that since 1999 he has been hosting students of Law School from Akwa Ibom State but this was specifically to enlighten them on the objective of RUGA programme against the ongoing misconceptions.
He asked the law students one after the other what they know about RUGA and each and everyone gave his view on the issue.
Some said they have not known much about the real issue because government was yet to enlighten them on it.
He went on: “RUGA is not a plan to seize land from people neither and it’s not meant to fulanize or colonize 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, ” Enang explained.
According to him, people in the south have farm settlements and plantations that can be equated to Ruga.
”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, ” he said
He noted that in places like the north, earth dams were constructed to cater for cattle.
He expressed shocks over the inability of some states governors to understand the policy.
One of the first RUGA programmes, he said, is Obudu Cattle Ranch and the Yankari Games Reserve.
Stressing that the Federal Government is not trying to takeover anybody’s land for Ruga , he said that land under the land use act is in the hands of state government.
He faulted the claims by some governors that it was meant to Fulanize people.
He said that 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 10 states mainly North Central, and few states in North West and North East.
Responding to questions from the law students he said in most places wealth is measured by the number of cattle one has.
Senator Enang said that people in the southern part of the country preferred the local cow because it’s more nutritious than the ones brought from the north.
He urged the states in the south to open up their lands for RUGA.
He said those in the habit of abusing their leaders are not well informed on the policy adding that their representatives in the national assembly unanimously passed the budget for RUGA and the ministers from all the states of the federation also approved the RUGA at NEC.
He said that the president is very sensitive to the plight of Nigerian hence the call for the suspension of the RUGA policy.
He also appealed to all Nigerians to stop politicizing the implementation of the ruga policy.
He said that if lawyers understand, the world will understand.
The students appreciated the senator appealing to government to increase its public enlightenment programme to enable the citizens understand better its policies and programmes to avoid rancor.