By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
A melodrama, yesterday, trailed the reintroduction of the National Water Resources Bill in the House of Representatives, as Benue lawmaker, Mark Gbillah, moved against it, even before it was introduced.
It would be recalled that the bill had previously stirred up a string of controversies, following opposition from many people who saw it as an attempt b y the present government to impose Rural Grazing Area, RUGA, on the country.
However, the bill, which failed to fly in the 7th and 8th Assemblies, was re-introduced in the current 9th House by the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata (APC/Jigawa), who on July 23, 2020, moved a motion that 11 bills, including the Water Bill, be reintroduced.
Again, opposition mounted against the bill, which later led to its withdrawal.
But at yesterday’s plenary, chairman of the Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli (APC, Katsina), tried to test the waters by reintroducing the bill.
Hardly had the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, asked the clerk of the House, Yahaya Danzaria, to read out the short title of the bill than a member of the House from Benue State, Mark Gbillah, raised a point of order.
Reminding Gbajabiamila of the controversies the bill generated in the last Assembly, Gbillah said it should be withdrawn immediately.
He said: “We wonder why this issue is still being re-presented on the floor of the House. Some of us are not comfortable or in support of this bill.”
But the speaker informed him that the sponsor, Soli, had assured that all the contentious issues had been expunged, urging the members to get the buy-in of their respective governors on the bill.
He said: “I asked the chairman the same thing this morning (yesterday) and he told me that the issues that were raised then have been addressed by all the governors. Apparently governors of the federation, both south and north, participated in this new bill.
‘’I will take him by his word. We live in a diverse country and every sensitivity should be taken into consideration. The governors govern their states and they know what affects them. Be very vigilant, talk to your governors and get their opinion on how it affects your states.”
Gbajabiamila’s explanation did not assuage Gbillah as he said whatever the decision of the governors were had not been accepted by his home state governor, Samuel Ortom.
“With all due respect to our governors, we are duly elected with the mandate in this House to represent the interest of our people. We are also coming from the premise of that constitutional powers we have.
‘’Whatever the governors may have agreed upon may not be acceptable to us. It’s imperative that all of us collectively are given copies immediately of whatever this bill says. The contentious issue is that the Federal Government will be taking ownership and possession of water ways.
Similarly, another Benue lawmaker, John Dyegh, said governors would not decide for the House on legislative matters.
In his reaction to Gbilla’s position, Gbajabiamila said “he (Soli) specifically mentioned your governor’s name.”
The speaker, however, said advanced copies of the bill must be made available to every lawmaker to know the details, and directed chairman of the committee on rules and business, Hassan Fulata, to do the needful.
In his response to the Gbajabiamila’s ruling, the sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli, promised to withdraw the bill should another circle of controversy erupt.