Tordue Salem – Abuja
The House of Representatives has withdrawn its controversial National Water Resources Bill, 2020.
The House was thrown into a turmoil on Tuesday, while considering a Matter of Privilege, raised by Rep. Benjamin Mzondu(PDP-Benue) to be heard on the contentious National Water Resources Bill, 2020.
Mzondu’s motion sought the withdrawal of the Bill, owing to the public outcry against it and its breach of House’ Rules.
In presenting his Matter of Privilege, Rep. Mzondu cited Order 6, Rule 1(1), 2 and 3, as he argued forcefully, against the transmission of the Bill to the Senate and its finally becoming law.
According to him, “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 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.
“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.
“The words used are clear and unambiguous, they ought to be given their ordinary meaning, as stated.
“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.
“The laws lay, on your shoulder to interpret these rules as stated in Order 7 Rule 1(7). It is important to emphasize that I have painstakingly searched through all the journals of the House, and cannot 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”.
” 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 the Third time from our records”.
His latter prayers were granted, after a prolonged debate from both sides of the legislative divide, as the Speaker ordered for the withdrawal of Bill.
“Fundamental issues have been raised by Hon. Mzondu. He has backed them up, with a clear language, that such bills, must be re-gazetted”, Gbajabiamila said.
While the Deputy Speaker of the House, Rep. Idris Wase who argued against Mzondu’s position, stressed that the Bill followed due process in its passage.
Wase’s argument was buttressed by the sponsor of the Bill, Rep. Sada Soli(APC-Katsina), and the Chairman of the Rules and Business Committee, Rep.Hassan Fulata(APC-Jigawa).
Lawmakers, led by Rep. Kingsley Chinda(PDP-Rivers), however, put up a strong defense for Mzondu’s submission, leading to the decision of the Speaker to Order for the withdrawal of the Bill, for a fresh gazetting.
Recall that the same Bill which was earlier introduced as Executive Bill was killed in the Senate, but passed in the House. The instrument, however, couldn’t be retransmitted to the Senate for Senate’s concurrence before the 8th Assembly lapsed.