…Labour, Soyinka urge Nigerians to resist water Bill
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Peter Duru
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, yesterday, threatened to drag the Federal Government to court if the National Assembly continued to deliberate on the National Water Resources Bill jettisoned by the Assembly in 2018, but allegedly being reintroduced.
This came as Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, called on Nigerians to resist any plan by the Federal Government to resurrect the rejected National Water Resources Bill, warning that the nation would be doomed if the bill was passed into law.
At separate fora, the trio pleaded with the leadership of the National Assembly not to resurrect or cause to be passed into law the Water Bill because of the danger it portends to national unity.
Benue threatens legal action
Meanwhile, Governor Ortom while threatening legal action when he hosted the new leadership of Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, an umbrella body of Tiv speaking persons across the world, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe the funds expended on the aborted Ruga policy for which billions of Naira was expended.
According to Governor Ortom: “A bill that was out rightly rejected in 2018 cannot be passed through the back door. It will not be accepted in Benue State. I enquired from members of the National Assembly from Benue and none of them accepted that the bill was returned when it was rejected in 2018.
“I told them it is wickedness as you want to control the waterways and extend it to about three kilometers radius which means that even Benue Government House that is close to River Benue will be removed or taken over.
“What they are doing is against the Constitution, the Land Use Act is in the constitution and the only way to amend it is through constitutional review, which two third of the states will endorse before it comes into effect. So, if the National Assembly continues hearing on the bill, I will take them to court. It is very wrong and we will not continue to keep quiet on things that affect our land and our people. We cannot allow this injustice to continue in our country and we keep quiet.
“That law will not be accepted in Benue State because we have Rivers Katsina/Ala and Benue which we will not allow anybody take away from us for the purpose of grazing cattle. It is a disgrace to this country that even in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, cattle have been allowed to take over our major roads, hindering free traffic flow. It is what we experience anytime you get to Abuja. It is shameful and my question is why are we not ranching our cattle?
“For our people, that bill is not acceptable and being a government that is committed to the wellbeing of our people, because we were elected by Benue people and not by Abuja or any other person, our primary responsibility is to do what Benue people want which is also my definition of democracy.
“So, I wonder why anybody would want to hate me for doing what my people want. The people are my backbone, so my loyalty and commitment remains with them and I will continue to do what they want. “I apologise to the people who are not happy with me for standing with the people. The fact is that I do not have a choice.”
Responding, the President General of MUT, Comptroller of Prisons, Iorbee Ihagh (rted), added his voice to the call by Governor Ortom on the National Assembly to reject the bill.
Meanwhile, NLC in a statement by its President, Ayuba Wabba, said, “Information in the public domain has it that the National Assembly leadership is working with vested interests outside the Assembly anxious to pass the bill without due legislative process.
“Although the National Assembly is constitutionally vested with law-making, we warn against the National Assembly ambushing Nigerians.
“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.
“We recall that this bill was rejected in 2018 with very good reasons. Although, there is no law against re-presentation of a killed or rejected bill, however, given the strong sentiments expressed against this bill from practically all sections of the country, then and now, we would strongly advise that this bill should not be resurrected.
“We have in our hands at the moment enough challenges to court fresh and costly controversy. Although, legislation is one of the three constitutional functions of the National Assembly, it should not be a licence to dictatorship but a representation of the will, aspirations and sensitivities of the populace.
“In light of this, we state unambiguously that the National Assembly should listen to the voice of reason by resting this bill. As a pan-Nigerian organisation, we would continue to work assiduously for unity, development, justice and accountable leadership.”
On his part, the Nobel Laureate, who spoke while presenting 107 copies of several books to Governor Ortom of Benue State, for onward distribution to persons taking refuge in Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, camps across the state, commended the Benue State governor for always being on the side of truth.
Represented by the former State Chairman of Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Dr Charles Iornumbe, Prof Soyinka said: “The bill is a deliberate, flanking move towards RUGA colonisation. It must be resisted across board. No compromising or this nation is doomed, since it will be resisted by any and all means.”
Receiving the books, Governor Ortom said, “Prof. Soyinka is a great Nigerian, who stood with us during our trying times, despite his age, he took time to visit us to give us support and also show solidarity which we cannot forget in a hurry.”
Commending the Noble Laureate for the donation, the governor stated that the books would help encourage the children in IDPs camps across the state to embrace reading, promising that his Education Commissioner would ensure the distribution of the books to the beneficiaries.