The Nigerian Senate has denied claims by aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang that N2.258billion was added to the 2019 budget for the controversial Ruga settlements programme for Fulani herdsmen across the country.
The programme which was announced few months ago, had generated outrage from many, especially in the middle belt and southern Nigeria, leading to its suspension by the government.
But last week, Enang was reported to have have told indigenes of Akwa Ibom State, who are students of the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, that the Federal Government made a provision of N2.258bn for the implementation of the programme in the 2019 budget.
However, on Sunday senators denied the claim in interviews with Punch and challenged Enang to show Nigerians where the said money was inserted in the 2019 budget.
The Senate leadership said it scrutinised the current national fiscal document to authenticate the claims but found no amount meant for the implementation of Ruga programme in the 2019 budget.
Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, told Punch in a telephone interview that no such money was voted for the implementation of Ruga in the 2019 budget.
“We have gone through the 2019 budget critically and we did not come across any money that was voted for Ruga programme implementation there. Let Senator Ita Enang prove us wrong, then we will take the issue up from there,” he said. “He who alleges must prove.”
Punch also quoted Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe as assuring Nigerians that necessary legislative actions would be taken on the issue when the federal lawmakers resume from their recess in September.
Abaribe also said investigation carried out by him on the issue had revealed that the N2.258bn Ruga fund might not have been specifically captured in the 2019 Federal Government budget.
“I spoke with Ita Enang and he told me that he was misquoted on the issue. So I don’t think we should go ahead discussing the pronouncement since he had told me that he was misquoted,” he said.
“I asked him where in the 2019 budget that money is. I also asked him why he would say states in the southern part of the country should support the programme and even provide land for the project and he (Enang) said he never said so.
“I don’t think that we can make further comments on a pronouncement that has been denied. For us, I don’t think any such thing was in the budget. I will have to go through the budget again and check properly.
“However, if such a thing comes up in the course of my findings, then we would do the needful. The Senate will certainly not be a part of anything that will cause disruption of peace and problems within the country.”
When contacted, however, Enang declined comments on the issue, telling Punch that, “Please, I won’t speak on it. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has said the matter, as well as other national issues, will be attended to when it resumed plenary in September.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye said that no matter could be discussed until the members resume from their annual recess.
“When we resume from recess, we will look at all the issues that cropped up while we were on recess and attend to them. The Senate has not taken any decision yet on the issue,” he told Punch.