Politics

House leaders disagree over Water Resources Bill; Senators vows to reject controversial bill

Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

Senators under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has vowed to vehemently reject the National Water Resources Bill.

Two leaders of the House of Representatives on Tuesday disagreed over public hearings on the bill.

Peter Akpatason, the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, insists that public hearings to be held on the controversial bill, while Abubakar Fulata, the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, said there would be no more public hearings on it.

Fulata introduced the bill on July 23, 2020. The eight National Assembly led by Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara had rejected the bill. Lawmakers from the north supported the bill, while lawmakers from the south rejected it.

According to Fulata, there was no need for more public hearing, saying that the public hearings on the bill was held in the eight National Assembly.

Daily Trust however reports that the House Leader, Doguwa, had told the newspaper that the bill had been referred to the House Committee on Water Resources to conduct a public hearing on it.

He further noted that when the House resumes from its annual recess, the committee would conduct public hearing, after which the bill would be considered and passed to the Senate (however, southern/middle belt senators are already waiting for the rejection of the bill).

However, lawmakers, especially those from the Middle Belt and the Southern parts of the country have vowed to resist the bill.

Dachung Bagos, the lawmaker representing Jos South/East Federal Constituency of Plateau State,  noted that his constituents had rejected the bill.

“How can the House foist it on Nigerians? Our constituents are talking about it and they have asked us to reject it.  It is something that will be discussed. If you make a law that Nigerians don’t like, what is the essence?” he asked

The controversial bill seek to transfer the control of water resources from states to the Federal Government.

The bill is titled ‘A Bill for An Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, Provide for the Equitable and Sustainable Redevelopment, Management, Use and Conservation of Nigeria’s Surface Water and Groundwater Resources and for Related Matter.’

It states partly; “All surface water and groundwater wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people, the use of which is subject to statutory control.

“There shall be no private ownership of water but the right to use water in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”

If passed by the National Assembly, it would handover to the Federal Government the control of water resources around rivers Niger and Benue as well as other water ways across 20 states (Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Plateau and Kebbi states).

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State had vehemently rejected the bill which he described as a plot to give Fulani herdsmen lands for open grazing in the southern parts of the country. He noted that the bill is the reintroduction of ruga and cattle colony in disguise.

Apart from the governor, Prof. Wole Soyinka had also condemned the reintroduction of the bill. The Southern, Middle Belt, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Niger Delta Elders, Afenifere have collectively rejected the bill and berated the Federal Government and National Assembly for re-introducing it.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had also rejected the bill, saying that its passage would pose danger to national unity and security.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Minority Leader, has stated that though the bill is yet to be re-introduced in the Senate, it would be rejected.

Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe
Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe

“We’ve not seen it in the Senate. When it comes we’ll reject as before,” Senator Abaribe said.

Senator Biodun Olujimi, the lawmaker representing Ekiti South, in her reaction to the bill said; “I’m not aware of that bill at all.

Senator-Biodun-Olujimi-representing-Ekiti-South-Senatorial-District-in-the-National-Assembly
Senator-Biodun-Olujimi-representing-Ekiti-South-Senatorial-District-in-the-National-Assembly

“However, anything that will injure our people, some of us will never be part of it.

“We’ll not allow any legislation to ruin the fragile peace we have in this country.

“We’ll not allow our fragile peace to be destroyed as a result of any political, personal or ethno-religious reasons.

“We won’t allow it because we’re one entity and we must fight for the people of Nigeria.

“The bill will require the concurrence of the Senate and when the time comes, we won’t let it just fly like that,” she noted.

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