Governor Ortom, Prof Wole Soyinka, NLC, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Others Criticize the Bill
The Presidency has asserted that it would go ahead with the Water Resources Bill, despite the fact that it had failed to be passed into the law by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 8th National Assembly, has since been reintroduced, passed second reading and has been referred to a House Committee in the House of Representatives of the 9th Assembly. This was made known a joint press conference hosted by Mr. Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture in Abuja recently. The Bill has received criticisms from prominent Nigerians, labour unions and socio-political organizations like Governor Samuel Ortom, Governor of Benue State, Professor Wole Soyinka, the NLC, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF and Ohanneze Ndigbo.
The executive bill, according to the Mr Suleiman Adamu, seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria, and provide for the equitable and sustainable development management, use and preserve Nigeria’s surface water, groundwater resources and related matters.
Adamu said the bill would empower irrigation farmers to form Water Users Association for effective operation and maintenance of irrigation infrastructure and sustainable development. While commercial borehole drillers would be mandated to obtain licenses, adding that no license was needed for domestic extraction of water.
“Nobody says you should not drill borehole in your house, but the issue is that you cannot be taking water for commercial use at the expense of the people, so this bill is actually protecting the rights of the people to use their resources.
‘The other issue is the proliferation of boreholes in this country, this is the only country in the world that you drill borehole without the authorities knowing. When I was told there are over 1,000 boreholes in Abuja alone, I could not believe it, the recent earth tremor was linked to borehole drilling,’ he said.
Adamu said the ministry through the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, had the responsibility to monitor the groundwater resources to ascertain pollution, and ensure sustainable
The Water Resources Bill 2020, Section 13, states ‘In implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the Institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, river basin, and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.’
Section 2(1) of the Bill says: ‘All surface water and ground water wherever it occurs, is a resources common to all people.’
However, the motive behind the bill is reported to reflect the Federal Government’s resolve to promote prudent management of the nation’s water resources, and also act as an enabler to the nation’s attainment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
Alhaji Lai Mohammed explained that the bill was not drawn out to cause conflict in the country, but it was proposed and considered as a panacea to probable water conflicts in the country.
He proceeded by saying that the attackers of the bill have either not acquainted themselves with it, or might be mischievous. He also clearly affirmed that, there is no ulterior motive behind the proposition and enactment of the Bill. And that, it is not a deceptive reintroduction of Rural Grazing Area PROPOSED policy, popularly known as RUGA.
He further said: ‘There is nothing new about the National Water Resources Bill. This is because it is an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that have been in existence for a long time. And these laws include the Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004, The River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap R9 LFN 2004, The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N1100A, LFN 2004 and National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83 LFN 2004…they are being re-enacted with necessary modifications to bring them in line with current global trends as well as best practices in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).’
Mr Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources said the bill was sent to all the states in other to achieve synchronicity across states without any ulterior objectives. He concluded by saying that ‘This was never a Buhari bill, it is a bill for Nigeria. It started 2008 long before the President thought of winning the election.’
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Representatives Committee on Water Resources, Mr Sada Ali has asserted
That despite criticisms from Nigerians such as Dr Samuel Ortom, the Benue State Governor, Nobel Laurete, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the House is determined to pass the bill into law. Mr Sada Ali, represents Jibia/Kaita Federal Constituency in Katsina State has said that the bill will not be stepped down. This is in line with the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives who stated that the bill will ‘trigger Change’. However, Eyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Miniority Leader differ from his colleagues in the House of Representatives. He vowed to mobilise other members of the Senate against the passage of the bill. He also said that the Minister of Water Resources should desist from misinforming the public instead of misleading and misinforming the public.
Many critics of the bill have noted that the bill will bring Water Resources fully in the control of the Federal Government, while sociopolitical groups like PANDEF, Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndigbo have described the bill as a disguised route by the FG to secure lands around the rivers in Southern Nigeria for the resettlement of herdsmen since it failed to establish the Rural Grazing Area, RUGA.
Governor Ortom said that the fine details of the 2020 Water Resources Bill went contrary to the Land Use Act, and that the bill was a ‘disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country.’
Nobel Laurete, Prof Wole Soyinka had earlier accused the Federal Government and the legislature for attempting to slip the bill into law, without due process. “A roundly condemned project, blasted out of sight by public outrage one or two years ago, is being exhumed and sneaked back into service by none other than a failed government, and with the consent of a body of people, supposedly elected to serve as custodians of the rights, freedoms and existential exigencies of millions,” Mr Soyinka said in the statement titled MLK’s Mighty Stream of Righteosuness,’
Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President said that the bill will portend danger for national unity. He also warned that there are lobbying and underhand dealings playing out in order to pass the bill without due legislative process. “We equally warn against legislative abuse or betrayal of Nigerians as this is what it will amount to if the bill is passed or caused to be passed without public engagement and scrutiny. Already, the sentiments expressed against this bill are too grave to be brushed off.” He said.
Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, Ohanaeze’s National Publicity Secretary, said that forcing the bill into law will amount to tyranny by the Buhari led government. ‘We are not interested whether the 8th National Assembly rejected it or not. What we are saying is that Nigerians rejected it. The National Assembly, is it not the National Assembly of Nigeria? Nigerians have rejected the bill in its entirety.’ Achi Okpaga said.
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