Says misinformation on bill political

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

FG insists on Water Resources Bill

The Federal Government said, Thursday, that the misinformation on the controversial Water Resources Bill was deliberate and political.

It also listed seven states to benefit from the first tranche of the World Bank’s $700 million for specific water projects in the country. The states include Imo, Delta, Bauchi, Ekiti, Katsina, Kaduna and Plateau.

It would be recalled that opposition had trailed the Water Resources Bill, which many stakeholders described as a ploy by the Federal Government to take over control of waterways from state governments to provide water for grazing purposes.

But addressing State House correspondents on the scorecard of his ministry at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, the Minister of Water Resources, Sulaiman Adamu, insisted that government had taken a firm decision to regulate the water delivery system, saying no data existed to effectively reform the sector.

He also said he had lobbied the Nigeria Governors Forum on the matter.

Adamu said: “We’re still working with the National Assembly on this bill. I think probably they were so engrossed with the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill) and the Electoral Act Bill, which are, of course, serious national priorities, and they were not able to come to talk about it.

“But already, we have done all the things that needed to be done. The issue that was raised, the technical issue about gazetting, had been addressed. So the bill is still before the National Assembly.

“Obviously, I have said so much about this bill, people have been deliberately misinformed. The bill was deliberately politicised unnecessarily, something that is good for the development of the country.

“In any case, 96, 97 per cent of the provisions in that bill are already existing in four different laws. Water Resources Act 2004; Nigeria Hydrological Services Act; River Basin Development Authorities Act; and the National Water Resources Institute Act.

“The first purpose of bringing this bill was to put all these bills under one booklet, instead of having four separate laws, just consolidate them into one statute. That is number one.

“Number two is that Nigeria, like all other countries in the world, has adopted the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management.  And that is why today, we’re enjoying the category two UNESCO centre of Integrated River Basin Management that is based in Kaduna.

“It is a centre of excellence, funded by UNESCO to promote integrated River Basin Management and we are getting people from all parts of West Africa to come and learn about River Basin management there.

“So on the basis of that, powers that were hitherto vested in the Minister of Water Resources, are being devolved to the communities, to stakeholders within the basins.

“What this means is that whereas on the basis of the Water Resources Act that is existing, I as minister can’t determine where any project can be put without any recourse to anybody. Under this new Integrated Water Resources Management concept, we’ll have to go down and talk to the communities involved.”

“We have to have their buy in, we have to agree so we’ll have to hold town hall meetings, we have to set up catchment management committees.  The Integrated Water System Management Commission that is saddled with that responsibility was set up in 2007.

“This is the organisation that provides licensing, you cannot get a licence to have a power plant without a water licence. Right? That’s what is happening now through the Integrated Water Management Commission. So, there is also a provision within the bill to strengthen this agency.

“All the people that are mining water have to go there to get a water licence and pay a tariff, it is gazetted by law. But right now, they are operating on the basis of delegated powers of the minister. And what we want is for them to stand alone, that means I can withdraw this delegated powers anytime and apply them myself.

“But if we have what we have provided in the bill, there will be independence, like the National Electricity Regulatory Commission. They will not be answerable to the Minister, they will be answerable to the people.

‘’The bill provides that the commission will have members nominated by the president, cleared by the National Assembly, they have to be confirmed by the National Assembly and they will be representative of all the geopolitical zones of this country.

“So, we are democratising the process of Water Resources development in this country. And some people went to town and say we want to cheat people.   The exact thing of what this bill is trying to do is what is being fed into the minds of people. And I don’t understand why.

“We’ve talked, we’ve talked and we’ll keep talking. Well, we’re committed to this.  This bill, by the way, was drafted in 2006. The Buhari administration came in 2015. So it’s something we met, just like our ongoing project, is exactly what we met.

“We just wanted to continue where others failed. And the bill went to the Federal Executive Council and it was approved in September 2016.”

The minister also listed seven states that would benefit from the first tranche of World bank’s $700 million facility for specific water projects.

He said the states would access between $50 and $60 million, having met the criteria set up by the World Bank to do so.

“Some certain criteria were set up by the World Bank and us. And the states had to meet this eligible criteria. And the projects are submitted into tier one and tier two. Tier one is for those that will get a substantial amount, maybe $50, $60 million for the urban schemes,’’ he said.

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