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RUGA Gets N2.2bn in 2019 Budget

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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate) Matters, Senator Ita Enang has 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.

The Presidential aide disclosed that a whopping N2.258 billion was provided for the implementation of the Ruga programme in the 2019 budget.

Enang is who made the appeal at the weekend when he hosted Students of Law School Abuja from Akwa Ibom State, said 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 is not intended to islamize, fulanized or colonize anybody.

Supporting his claims, 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.

258bn was provided and budgeted for the grazing programme.

He maintained that the national assembly members are not against the Ruga programme because they aware of it and had been approving funds for it’s implementation.

Besides the over N2 billion appropriated for the Ruga there were also budgeted sum of N300 million for water sanitation, N400 million development for sweet potatoes, N350 million for ginger development amongst several other budgeted.

He said that the ruga policy is just one component of the budget under the ministry of agriculture.

Though President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the suspension of the Programme following a widespread protest against the implementation of the Programme in most states across the country especially in the middle belt and southern region.

But the presidential aide stressed that the objective of the budget for ruga is to promote cattle breeding and meet production.

He explained that the ruga programme is an integrated farm system which has schools, good road, tractors and mechanisatiom, agricultural integration.

with a provision for primary healthcare, vetinery, schools.

Senator Enang callee on the governor of Akwa Ibom State to also provide land for the establishment of RUGA in the states while urging the federal government to include his state amongst the benefiting states.

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He, however, disclosed that asides the budgeted sum for Ruga in the 2019 expenditure, 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 misconceptions making the orunds .

Enang served in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2011, the elected senate in 2011 to 2015 and appointed SSA to the President on National Assembly (Senate) matters to date.

”One of the rumours was that President Buhari was going to acquire land people’s feed cow, ” he said.

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.

Senator Enang said that Ruga is not a Hausa or Fulani word but an acronym for Rural Grazing Areas.

According to him the Ruga programme started in Nigeria since 1956, adding that it is not only for rearing cattle but farming and rearing of other animals.

”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 the presidential aide, people in the south have farm settlements and plantations which he equates 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.

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One of the first Ruga programmes is Obudu Cattle Ranch and the Yankari Games Reserve.

He said that every year there has been allocation for the continuous  funding of grazing areas.

The height of the herders/farmers crisis led to the introduction of the ruga policy May 8, by the federal government mostly in the middle belt region and some states in North east and north west.

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 been part of the approval.

The FG is not any way trying to takeover anybody’s land for ruga adding that land under the land use act is on the hands of state government.

He faulted the claims by some governors that it was meant to Fulanize peole.

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 who buy into the ruga programme 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 further highlighted that each state has a representative at the Federal executive council just like NASS.

He said that the president is very sensitive to the plight of Nigerian hence the call for the suspension of the Ruga picy.

The Ruga is an investment programme that will generate money for the state and the country at large.

Ruga (Rural Grazing Areas) started in 1956.

He appealed to all Nigerians to stop politicizing the implementation of the ruga policy.

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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 in order to avoid rancor.

Ndifrake Inyang, leader of the Akwa Ibom State Students of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja Campus, said: “We came here today to pay a courtesy call on Senator Ita Enang in keeping with his 20 years 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.

“Personally, I didn’t have the right notion about RUGA but I reserved my comment on that at that 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 peace Nigeria.”

Another law student Anastasia Ligiounim Ugbaka, an indigene of Obudu, Cross River State, said that the notion by most Nigerians is that the federal government want to take land from the people and islamize the country the RUGA programme.

She urged the government to expand the Obudu Cattle ranch and increase the number of cattle and other animals so as to create jobs.

She advised the federal government that when implement the RUGA policy they should go about it with caution so as not to ignite crisis because some people still hold divergence view on the issue.


Agriculture

VCDP Holds 3-Day Enterprise Training for Agri-businesses

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From David Torough, Makurdi

In a bid to mainstream nutrition sensitive intervention and harness potentials along commodity value chain while empowering youth and women, the Federal Government, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Value Chain Development Programme (FG/IFAD-VCDP)  held a 3-day youth enterprise training for Agri-businesses at the IFAD-VCDP premises, Makurdi, the Benue State Capital.

The six session training equipped participants with practical knowledge on how to process Vitamin A Cassava to snacks (Combo-bite, bread, chinchin, queens cake, Cassa-flakes), Processing of rice flour as substitute for baking flour, Processing of cassava peels to animal feeds as well as de-stoning and packaging of milled rice.

There was also an intense training for some youths on knapsack application and calibration as well as an entrepreneurship class for establishing a One-Stop Agro input shop.

According to IFAD-VCDP Rural Institution, Gender and Youth Mainstreaming Officer (RIGYMO), Mrs Sandra Agber 41 male youths, 39 female youths and one adult female were beneficiaries of the training.

She revealed that, the need to engage and empower youths and women to be self-employed in a sustainable manner and to add value to agricultural produce was the primary justification for the training. 

Mrs Agber disclosed that though the training is a youth empowerment programme, women were prioritized in line with VCDP’s gender mainstreaming initiative hence the high number of female participants particularly in the rice and cassava processing trainings.

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In his remarks during the opening ceremony, VCDP State Programme Coordinator, Mr Emmanuel Igbaukum charged the participants to take the training serious as VCDP is poised to continually supporting its farmers to maximize output as well as harness all potentials along agriculture commodity value chain.

He disclosed that participants would be given start up kits to support their various enterprises.

Two participants, Babara Yaaya and Veronica Chigba, who were trained on rice processing  and  One-stop agro shop establishment respectively, in their separate remarks at the end of the training appreciated IFAD-VCDP for their unceasing support to farmers and agripreneurs in the state and prayed God to give them the strength and resources to upscale these interventions.

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Agriculture

NASCO Has Empowered Millions of Farmers in Nigeria – Lalong

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From Jude Dangwam, Jos

Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong has said Nasco Food Limited has empowered millions of farmers in Nigeria in the last 57 years of its existence as it targets to cover the West African Sub-region.

He said with the coming on board of a multi-billion Naira investment new Cornflakes Plant supported by the Bank of Industry through First Bank of Nigeria Plc is a positive indicator that Plateau State has indeed regained the confidence of investors as a viable destination for both local and foreign capital inflows in the country.

Lalong stated this yesterday during the inauguration of the new NASCO Cornflakes Plant, held at the NASCO Food Ltd Industrial Area, in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

He said the development cumulatively now integrates into the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s drive to develop the agriculture commodity supply chain, for which maize has been recognised as one of the most important commodities; adding that the overall goal of the initiative by NASCO is the creation of jobs and wealth for Nigerians.

“It is instructive to note that since NASCO began its operations 57 years ago, millions of Nigerians from the post-independence generation to young Nigerians today have all been able to share almost identical experiences from having used the different product categories which NASCO has come to be known for.”

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Governor Lalong further disclosed that “NASCO’s adoption of the policy of back-ward integration in sourcing maize as its chief input for the production of cornflakes had empowered thousands of farmers on the Plateau and across many locations in central Nigeria. This had directly impacted on the volume and quality of the maize that its suppliers were cultivating”.

He however lamented that Plateau State is not yet a highly industrialised State that can create opportunities for employment to the teeming youths which over the years are limited to “government MDAs, few NGOs and CSOs, a handful of Financial Institutions and the relatively small number of SMEs operating in the state.

“This means there is a great need to invest in companies that have the capacity to scale up in the way that NASCO has done, in order that we can increase employment opportunities and improve the revenue generating potential of the state,” Lalong added.

The Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Nasco Group in Nigeria

Attia Nasreddin said NASCO has been a household name not only in Plateau State and Nigeria, but across the African continent having been around for almost six decades and identified as an icon of quality.

He hinted that the new multi-billion naira plant is expected to double its production capacity by increasing its supply chain and extending as well as widening its reach to more households in Nigeria and throughout the ECOWAS sub-region of Africa.

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Nigeria Has Over 10,000 Species of Traditional Medicinal Plants — Mamora

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Minister of State, Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora, says Nigeria is endowed with over 10,000 species of medicinal plants.

He also said the country had good arable land and climatic conditions for harnessing the potentials of the plants, for health, social, economic and other benefits.

Mamora said this in Abuja at the opening of a conference on Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM).

The conference was organised by TCAM, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Health Organization identified medicinal plant as the whole or part of a plant that contains bioactive substances that can be used for therapeutic purposes or serve as precursors for the synthesis of drugs.

Nigeria has a full-fledged TCAM Department in its ministry of health responsible for the formulation, review and implementation of policies and guidelines for research, development and regulation of herbal medicines.

The country launched the Traditional Medicine Policy in 2007, which has as its key objective, harnessing the potentials and economic benefits of TCAM.

The country also has a compendium of medicinal plants, the Nigerian Herbal Pharmacopeia (NHP), first published in 2008 and currently under review. 

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The compendium contained medicinal plants used for the safe treatment and management of various diseases.

Mamora said the conference should promote the cultivation and utilization of medicinal plants as raw materials for the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries.

He said this was to create short, medium and long-term value chain and attract agricultural and manufacturing loans.

The minister said this was important, as Nigeria and other African countries currently benefitted minimally from the global herbal medicine market projected at seven trillion dollars by 2050.

He said the market had been dominated by China, India, US, Germany and Thailand.

“Significantly, the cultivation of medicinal plants and commercialisation of herbal medicines will attract huge economic benefits to Nigeria.

“Especially in the following areas: increase foreign exchange earnings and wealth creation, alleviate poverty through the creation of job opportunities in areas of cultivation and conservation of medicinal plants in Nigeria,” he added.

He assured that the ministry remained committed to developing and promoting traditional, complementary and alternative medicine in Nigeria.

He said stakelders had initiated sensitisation programmes and activities to promote the cultivation, commercialisation and use of indigenous medicinal plants in the country.

It “facilitated the passage of the TCAM Council Bill into Law, to effectively coordinate and regulate TCAM practice in the country.

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The stakeholders also “inaugurated an Expert Committee that is currently working out modalities for the take-off of TCAM Institute for the training of TCAM practitioners in Nigeria”.

Prof. MacDonald Idu, a professor of Phytomedicine from the University of Benin, in a keynote address, said if properly harnessed, the value of traditional medicinal plants in Nigeria would hit N1 trillion by 2025.

He put the current market value of traditional medicinal plants conservatively at about N200 billion, regretting that not much attention has been paid to harness the sector.

“We talked about $200 billion. It is conservative. I’m serious. Other forms of literature that I have also read, we are going to hit about N1 trillion by 2025. I know what that means. That’s a lot of money” he said.

Idu said Nigeria must show commitment towards diversifying the economy.

“Nigeria I’m sorry, we don’t walk the talk. We talk a lot, but we don’t walk the talk. So my point of interest is to drag the hearts of our people to realise that we should diversify our economy.

“We don’t have any reason to be poor. That’s the real truth. We don’t have any reason to import everything that we need to survive. It’s already here. Why do you have them here?

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“So, I believe that if we’re able to set up that platform again, and then we’re able to organize ourselves and organize the traditional medicine practitioners and producers, we should be able to raise enough money for this country to move forward,” Idu added.

Earlier, the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, expressed regret over the low level of utilisation of the over 10,000 species of medicinal plants in the country, in spite of its huge need for the production of drugs, cosmetics and other essential products.

Buhari expressed the present administration’s commitment to boosting the commercial cultivation of such plants for the health, economic and social benefits of the people.

She said it would also open new areas for wealth and job creation for the teeming youths of the country.

The Conference is expected to bring together experts and other stakeholders in various fields of TCAM to brainstorm on the importance of indigenous medicinal plants to healthcare delivery in Nigeria. (NAN)  

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