The Federal Government at the weekend urged states to make land available for the controversial RUGA settlement, even as it said N2.258 billion was allocated for the initiative in the 2019 budget.
Disclosing the position of the government when he hosted Akwa Ibom State indigenes from the Law School, Abuja, Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters to President Muhammadu Buhari, insisted that the word ‘RUGA’ does not derive from Hausa or Fulani but is an acronym for Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), and is not intended to foist any religion or ethnic group on other sections of the country.
Critics of the scheme had accused the Federal Government of covertly trying to Islamise or Fulanise parts of the country.He cited item ERGP 5208 of the 2019 federal budget (for the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development) as containing the fiscal provision, saying allocations were equally made of N300 million for water sanitation, N400 million for the development for sweet potatoes, and N350 million for ginger production.
He expressed surprise over the inability of some states governors to comprehend the policy. According to him, one of the first RUGA programmes is the Obudu Cattle Ranch (now Obudu Mountain Resort) in Cross River State and the Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi State.
According to Enang, the Federal Government has always made yearly allocations for the funding of grazing areas. He further noted that the National Executive Council (NEC) approved another sum for an emergency RUGA implementation. This, he said, did not involve any state in the south-east, south-west and south-south, but only 10 states mainly in the north-central, and a few others in the north-west and north-east.
National Assembly members are not against the scheme because they are already aware of its modus operandi and have been approving funds for its implementation, the presidential aide said, appealing to Nigerians to stop politicising the matter.Responding, the leader of the students’ delegation, Ndifrake Inyang, said he was now in a better position to enlighten people about RUGA “having known the facts.”
He added: “Sincerely speaking, 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 to the national crisis, so that we will have one peaceful Nigeria.”
But worries about Fulani herdsmen, beneficiaries of RUGA, and their alleged link to violence, are unlikely to disappear soon.Following Thursday’s murder in Enugu of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr Offu, by suspected herdsmen, aggrieved adherents of the faith yesterday expressed disapproval at the Federal Government’s handling of security.
Thousands of the faithful had gathered at the Holy Ghost Cathedral to pray for the repose of the late Offu’s soul and for peace in the nation. But when the bishop, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, disclosed that Buhari had condoled with the church, the audience erupted, shouting: “No! No! No! We don’t want his condolence! He should keep his condolence to himself and stop the killings!”A statement titled ‘Enough Is Enough’ released by the church after the Mass, asked the Enugu State government to urgently flush out “bad Fulani from the state.”
The deceased, 49, will be interred August 20.Also, the Federal Polytechnic Ado Ekiti announced it had begun the construction of a perimeter fence to ward off the alleged invasion of its land by suspected herdsmen.At a press conference heralding the institution’s 17th convocation slated for August 12, the Rector, Hephzibah Oladebeye, disclosed that the school last year lost over N10 million worth of farm produce to the activities of herders.
“This has been our problem from time immemorial. Last year, they destroyed the school farm. It was very painful to us. We were agitated and held a meeting with the herders and security agencies.“We are not going to drive them away but we are commencing the perimeter fence so that their movement, in and out, can be regulated. Again, you have to take permission before you can graze here,” the rector said.
But in an appeal to government at the weekend, the Bauchi State chapter of Miyetti Allah, a body of Fulani herdsmen, said: “Additional earth dams and the expansion of grazing reserves will curtail the clashes between farmers and cattle herdsmen and reduce the movement of the Fulani from one place to another in search of water and grazing reserve.”
The chairman, Muhammadu Husseini, told journalists at a press conference: “All the cattle routes have been taken over by modern roads and houses built by government and individuals. This has put herdsmen in a difficult position.”
Similarly, agric-based firm, Food Work Africa Limited, will hold a national conference on RUGA from September 24 to 27 with a view to solving the herders-farmers conflict.
According to the convener, Ihechukwu Dallas Chima, RUGA has always existed but Buhari is facing resistance on the scheme because he is Fulani. He said the conference will highlight the rules of engagement for both parties, stressing there would be no problem if herders and farmers realised they could benefit economically.“If we don’t solve the crisis now, 20 years to come, there might be no food or beef in the country,” Chima warned.