By Dapo Akinrefon & Tordue Salem
The House of Representatives may be in a surreptitious plot, to ram through a Bill that seeks to vest the power over all water sources across the federation, in the hands of the Executive.
The Bill, when first introduced last year by the Presidency, had generated controversy across the country, because of its desire to have the Federal Government take charge of lands and water resources in the country.
Some commentators thought of it as decoy to advance the interests of the cattle herding population.
Even Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had raised concerns over the piece of legislation on July 23, querying; “is this not the same Bill that generated controversy in the media?’’
He, however, allowed it pass when the Chairman, Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, convinced him otherwise.
The Bill, entitled “National Water Resources Bill, 2020,” was arbitrarily reintroduced in the Green Chamber, in breach of its rules, legislative convention and provisions of the 1999 constitution before the House adjourned for a two-month recess on Thursday, July 23, 2020.
The reintroduced Bill, though shut down by the 8th Senate, headed by Dr. Bukola Saraki, was passed by Yakubu Dogara-led 8th House.
But the unpopular piece of legislation didn’t secure the concurrence of the Senate and the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari before that Assembly elapsed in June last year.
Recall that on Thursday, July 23, 2020, the House had, referring to Order 12, Rule 16 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, 9th Edition, passed the National Water Resources Bill, 2020 and committed it to a “Committee of the Whole”, for third reading and final passage.
The presentation of the Bill was done by the House Chairman on Rules and Business, Fulata.
The referral of the said bill to the Committee of the Whole, however, breaches Order 12 Rule 16 of the Standing Orders of the House. Though the Order states that such a bill from a preceding Assembly be gazetted, and clean copies, circulated, Vanguard investigations found that none of that was done.
Highlights of Bill
The Bill seeks to bring all water resources (surface and underground) and the banks of the water sources under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies to be established by the Bill.
Section 13 of the Bill, states that “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, surface water and ground water resources, river basins 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 resource common to all people.’’
The Bill is primed for passage by the House on their resumption from recess next month.
Reacting to the secret plot to pass the bill, the Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, called on Nigerians to be ready for protracted resistance to the move by the lawmakers.
In a statement by Yinka Odumakin (S-West), Chief Guy Ikokwu (S-East), Sen Bassey Henshaw (S-South) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), the forum said: “The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum calls on all the communities opposed to the bill, meant to grab land around waterways for cattle herders, to use the break time to organize community special sittings for their representatives to explain the meaning of this latest move and their roles in it.”
‘’Freedom loving Nigerians should be ready for protracted resistance to this move to grab land around waterways for Miyetti Allah by the Executive Arm of Government.”