…Constitution amendment, Water resources bill, 2022 budget on front burner
By Henry Umoru, Assistant Politics Editor
After its 62- day annual recess, the Ninth Senate will resume tomorrow to face a myriad of challenges facing the nation, especially insecurity with cases of armed banditry, kidnapping and massive killing of persons across the country.
Other issues include the Constitution and Electoral Act amendment bills, National Water Resources Bill and the 2022 budget.
In line with the Senate legislative Calendar, the Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North – led House adjourned on July 15, 2021 for its annual holiday.
One of the major assignments that would feature as the Senators resume is honouring colleagues who died as a result of old age or insecurity unleashed by terrorists, and bandits
While the lawmakers were on break, there were serious cases of insurgency, kidnapping and killing across the country. One of the cases is the infiltration of the fortress of the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, Afaka, Kaduna State, with killing of two middle – level officers and abduction of another.
One issue awaiting the Senate’s attention is the report of its joint committees on 2022- 2024 Median Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP).
Some senators had to cut short the break to ensure that the document was ready before resumption and for this reason, the Senator Olamilekan Adeola, APC, Lagos West led Senate joint Committees on Finance, National Planning, Petroleum Upstream, Downstream and Gas had brainstorming exercises with revenue generating agencies.
President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the Senate seeking for expeditious consideration and subsequent approval of the 2022-2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) as required by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan read the letter from President Buhari during plenary.
To fast track the passage, the President of the Senate refered the communication to the Joint Committees on Finance, National Planning, Banking, Insurance and other Financial institutions; Petroleum on Downstream, Upstream, Gas Resources and Foreign and local Debts.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had approved the 2022-2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) as required by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, projecting revenue generation of N6.54 trillion and N2.62 trillion to accrue to the Federation Account and VAT, respectively.
The council also authorised the funding of a N5.26 trillion budget deficit through borrowings.
A salient and topical issue that will come up is the presentation of the 2022 Appropriation Bill to the joint National Assembly by President Buhari for passage in order to meet up with the return to the budget cycle of January to December.
Another assignment for the Senate is the submission and clause by clause consideration of the report of the Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, APC, Delta Central- led Senate Constitution Review Committee, which received over 60 memoranda, seeking to alter provisions of the constitution.
Also, the Passage of the harmonized copy of Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, following different recommendations by the Senate and the House of Representatives on Electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral, INEC, will receive attention.
The amendment carried out by the 8th National Assembly was declined presidential assent.
During the recess, one major issue that still generated national discourse and criticisms was the Water Resources 2020 Bill which was reintroduced last year in the House of Representatives.
There are insinuations that it will bounce back in the Senate as the Senators because of the seriousness attached to it by the Federal Government.
The bill passed second reading in the House of Representatives under Femi Gbajabiamila and was referred to a House committee.
The proposed legislation seeks to concentrate the control of water resources around Rivers Niger and Benue which cut across 19 states, in the hands of the Federal Government. States that would be affected are Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Plateau, and Kebbi.
Controversial parts of the law include the part that vests ownership of water bodies on the Federal Government and the part that mandates citizens to get federal permission to drill bore holes in their homes or business premises
The Bill also allows the government control of about three kilometres radius of the water bodies, meaning that it will control both the water and land resources.
Section 2(1) of the Bill caps it all, saying, “all surface water and ground water, wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people.’’