By Samuel Oyadongha & Emem Idio – Yenogoa
The Ijaw Nation Development Group, INDG, in collaboration with other Ijaw organisations as well as individuals and representatives of Izon organizations globally, has rejected the passage of the proposed Water Resources Bill in its present form describing it as “another backdoor attempt to own our resources.”
The other groups include Ijaw Professionals Association, IPA, Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, The Ijaw Elders Forum, IEF, Ijaw Nation Forum, INF, Ezon Ladies Association, ELA, and Embasara Foundation.
In a resolution reached at a virtual conference to examine the National Water Resources Bill (2020) currently before the National Assembly, however, said the Ijaw Nation is open and willing to engage, consult and negotiate a water resources bill that protects her strategic interests, for the greater good of all Nigerians.
Describing the bill as an assault to the identity and existence of Ijaw people bill and further attempts to whittle down the powers of various federating ethnic groups in the country, they call on the Nigerian State and the presidency, to emulate the practice of true federalism, as exemplified in India, Australia, Germany, Canada and the USA.
The resolution was signed by Arc Denzil Kentebe (INDG), Comrade Joseph Evah (IMG), Mr Elaye Otrofanowei (IPA), Barr. Iniruo Will (Embasara Foundation), Mrs Ebiere Fumudor (ELA), among others.
They said: “The re-emergence and pursuance of a National Water Resources Bill, which had hitherto, been rested by the 8th National Assembly, due to widespread national opposition to its assent, but brought through the backdoor into the 9th National Assembly, leaves us to wonder why in the face of more pressing and critical national issues, including the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic, widespread economic dislocation, rising energy costs, rampant and pervasive insecurity, the presidency still chose to resurrect this bill.
“The bill is suspicious in context and content, and its reemergence lacks transparency, as there was no consultation with various stakeholders across the country.
“Ijaw Nation rejects the passage of the bill in its present form, without it being open to public hearing, wide consultation and the fundamental concerns of ownership, control, management and use in favour of federalism, human and peoples’ environmental rights.
“We note that Ijaw life is intertwined with water, and water is the very essence of our livelihood and survival. Therefore this bill is another backdoor attempt to own our resources.
“It is also an obvious intent to usurp the rights of autonomous federating units which should by the constitution, hold the power to regulate the affairs of its people and property within its territory.
“This bill is an obvious impunity and an outright disregard of basic principles of federalism and fundamental human rights.
“It is a further show of a hidden agenda, especially for land grab as it fails to address the manifest deficiency in strategy for the development of groundwater that over 80% of Nigerians depend on.
“The Ijaw people will lose their land and water rights to the presidency if this bill is passed in its present form.
“Ijaw Nation is open and willing to engage, consult and negotiate a water resources bill that protects her strategic interests, for the greater good of all Nigerians.
“We call on the Nigerian State and the presidency, to emulate the practice of true federalism, as exemplified in India, Australia, Germany, Canada and the USA.
“We resolve to work with other Niger Deltans and Nigerian nationalities, to ensure that we protect our nationalities and restore federalism from unitary intrusion and control, by hegemony and vested business and political interests.
“We share the concerns of many Nigerian ethnic nationalities who believe that the bill is part of a grand plot to take over their land for Ruga settlements.
“We stand for justice, equity, and fairness, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Africa Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.”