Southern states have been charged to support the federal government’s Ruga cattle settlement scheme to benefit from the N2.258billion allocated to it in the 2019 budget.
The senior special assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Senator Ita Enang, dropped the hint at the weekend in Abuja when he hosted students of the Law School, Abuja from Akwa Ibom State.
Enang, therefore, called on southern states to support the implementation of the Ruga cattle settlement programme by making land available for it.
He explained that 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 and was not intended to Islamise, Fulanise or colonise anybody as being speculated.
The presidential aide cited the 2019 budget, volume 1 under the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development item number ERGP 5208 where the sum of N2.258billion was provided for the grazing programme.
According to Enang, National Assembly members are not against the Ruga programme because they are aware of it and have been approving funds for its implementation.
Besides the over N2 billion appropriated for the Ruga project, the sum of N300 million was allocated to water sanitation, N400 million for the production of sweet potatoes, N350 million for ginger development amongst several other funds, Enang said.
Enang explained that the Ruga policy was just a component of the budget under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He stressed that the objective of the budget for Ruga was to promote cattle breeding and meet national production target, adding that it is an integrated farm system which has schools, good roads, tractors and mechanisation, agricultural integration, provision for primary healthcare, and veterinary schools for the beneficiaries.
Aside the budgeted for Ruga in the 2019 expenditure, Enang stated there was another amount provided for the emergency Ruga implementation programme approved in May by the National Economic Council for states that would make land available for it.
Enang said that since 1999 he had been hosting the Law School students from Akwa Ibom State, stressing that this year’s edition was specifically to enlighten them on the objectives of Ruga programme against the misconceptions of the scheme.
He said: “One of the rumours was that President Muhammadu Buhari was going to acquire land from other Nigerians to feed cows. Ruga is neither a plan to seize land from people nor meant to Fulanise or colonise anybody.
”The programme is meant to address the issue of cattle roaming about and the destruction of farmlands 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,” he said.
The presidential noted that in the North, earth dams were constructed to cater for cattle and expressed shocks over the inability of some state governors to understand the policy.
He alleged that two of the first Ruga programmes was Obudu Cattle Ranch and the Yankari Games Reserve, adding that every year there had been allocation of funds for grazing areas.
The height of the herders/farmers’ crisis led to the introduction of the Ruga policy last May 8 by the federal government mostly in the Middle Belt region and some states in North East and North West zones, Enang said.
He said that it was the National Economic Council (NEC) that approved the establishment of the emergency Ruga policy but wondered by some governors were denying being part of it.
Enang faulted the claims by some governors that it was meant to Fulanise other Nigerians and insisted 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 in the North Central, and a few states in the North West and North East.
Responding to questions from the students, he said that in most places wealth was measured by the number of cattle one has.
Senator Enang said that people in the southern part of the country preferred the local cows because they are more nutritious than the ones brought from the North.
He said that President Buhari was very sensitive to the plight of Nigerians hence his call for the suspension of the policy, stressing that the Ruga is an investment programme that will generate money for the states and the entire country.
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