The recently suspended settlement scheme for herders known as RUGA might not be dead after all. The scheme which was suspended following resistance by community leaders and governors across the nation, still has a lifeline as it is budgeted for in the 2019 federal budget.
Background: The yet-to-be-appointed presidential liaison to the National Assembly, Sen. Ita Enang, told Akwa Ibom students currently undergoing studies at the Abuja Campus of the Nigerian Law School that over two billion Naira has been budgeted for the scheme.
- Enang cited the 2019 federal budget, Volume 1 under the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development item number ERGP 5208 where the sum of N2.258 billion was provided and budgeted for the grazing programme.
Why it matters: Ita Enang argued that National Assembly members were aware of the RUGA scheme and allowed it to pass in the budget. He said:
- “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.”
- ”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.”
The contentious issues:
- “RUGA” or “Ruga”? Ita Enang argued that “RUGA” is an acronym that stands for Rural Grazing Area and not an Hausa/Fulani language term. He claimed that the idea was developed in 1954 during the colonial era. However, this argument has been countered by some historians, particularly Cheta Nwanze of SBM Intelligence, who referenced a 1924 Journal of the African Society where the term was used to refer to Fulani herder settlements.
- Osinbajo’s false claim? Vice President Yemi Osinbajo claimed that RUGA settlements were not part of the conclusions drawn at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting January 17 for the implementation of a National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). With the budget for the plan still in place, it appears that the VP’s claims can be disputed
- Recall that, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture had already land preparations and construction in Benue state, for the same scheme until the state governor, Samuel Ortom, raised the alarm in a press conference.