Reps at Loggerheads Over Water Resources Bill

House of representatives during plenary. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of House of Reps.]

The House of Representatives was thrown into a state of great pandemonium yesterday over the National Water Resources Bill, 2020. The chaos started when Rep. Benjamin Mzondu(PDP-Benue) flagged up a Matter of Priviledge.

Hon. Mzondo proposition addressed the withdrawal of the Bill, by reason of the public’s objection against it, as well as its violation of House Rules. Rep. Mzondu, on presenting the Matter of Privilege, cited Order 6, Rule 1(1), 2 and 3, as he strongly opined against the transference of the proposed bill to the Senate.

He said, ‘I wish to refer to Order 6, Rule 1(1), 2 and 3 and Order 12, Rule 18 to state that I was deprived of my legislative Privilege of sighting a gazetted copy of the National Water Resources BillHB 921, and as such could not participate in the consideration of the report by the Committee of the Whole, which also deprived me of my rights and privilege of representation to my people.’

Hon. Mzondo hinted that the Water Resources Bill 2020 did not go through due process thereby evading the objections of some of the representatives. Hon. Mzondo insisted that the bill was not reflected in the House Gazette that would have allowed him to engage the bill in its fullness as a member of the House of Representatives who has a responsibility to his people.

‘Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, it is in the effort to eliminate the “Element of Surprise”, that the House in its wisdom, included in its Standing Rule, that every Bill, must be gazetted or clean copies circulated. It is important to note that the word emphasized here, is ‘gazette’, which means appearing in the Bills Journal of the House.’

‘Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, I was misled by the use of order 12, Rule 18 of our Standing Orders. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, it is an issue of law and procedure, and Hon. Speaker, the onus of interpretation, lies with you. Where the Bill was labeled as Bill 2020, it was not considered as such.’

He asserted that he was within his rights to inquire the reason behind the perceived delibrate omission of the bill in the Gazatte and put before the Hon. Gbajabiamila the onus to interpret the implications of such ommission of House Rules.

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‘The laws are within your jurisdiction to interpret these rules as stated in Order 7 Rule 1(7). It is of significance to stress that I have thoroughly searched through all the House journals, and couldn’t find where the Bill is gazetted and I stand to be challenged or corrected.’

‘The next question for your consideration   Hon. Speaker, deals with jurisdiction, whether the House such powers to entertain a bill, such proceedings become a nullity, ab initio no matter how conducted and decided,’

On the basis of the non-fufillment of the House Rules, Hon. Mzondo said ‘so having not met this condition, I wish to move, relying on Order8 Rule 8 and the above-stated rules, that ‘The House do rescind/expunge its decision of 23rd July 2020, which adopted the National Water Resources Bill, 2020 HB921 to have been read te Third time from our records.’

His requests were yielded to, after a lengthy conversation from both sides of the legislative divide, as the Speaker ordered for the withdrawal of Bill.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives said, ‘Fundamental issues have been raised by Hon. Mzondu. He has backed them up, with a clear language, that such bills, must be re-gazetted.’

Rep. Idris Wase, Deputy Speaker of the House, opposed Mzondu’s position. He stressed that the Bill followed legal process in its eventual passage. Wase was supported by Rep. Sada Soli(APC-Katsina), the sponsor of the Bill and Rep. Hassan Fulata(APC-Jigawa), Chairman of the Rules and Business Committee.

Rep. Kingsley Chinda(PDP-Rivers), leader of the lawmakers team, in support of Mzondu’s proposition, put up a strong defense, leading to the speaker’s decision to order for the withdrawal of the Bill for a fresh gazetting.

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