By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Should the controversial water resources bill recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives eventually pass into law, the federal government shall have the power to control all the resources found in the waters across the country.
The power however is vested in the minister of the water resources who will exercise it on behalf of the government.
It will be recalled that the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Hon. Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) reintroduced the bill on Wednesday, June 29, 2023 after it had failed to fly in the 8th assembly.
A draft copy of the bill sighted by Vanguard which detailed the powers and functions of the minister in section 10(1) stated that “It shall be the duty of the Minister to promote the protection, use, development, conservation, and management of inter-state water resources throughout Nigeria and to ensure the effective exercise of powers and performance of duties by institutions and persons identified under this Bill and in the constitution.”
Similarly subsection 2 and 3 of the bill also stated that “The Minister shall have the power to make regulations, policies and strategies for the proper carrying out of the provisions of this Bill and functioning of the Ministry in accordance with this Bill as well as in accordance with other directives he may receive from the President and any guidance from the Council.
“The Minister shall have and exercise reasonable powers as are necessary and required in furtherance of the duties and functions conferred pursuant to this Bill, the directives of the President, or any other Law.”
Under sections 11,12,13 and 14 of the bill, the minister also has the power to establish a Committee to coordinate implementation of any international agreement entered into by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a foreign government or any other international body or organisation relating to investigating, managing, monitoring, and protecting water resources.
The details of the sections ran as follows: “11.-(1) The Minister shall establish and chair ad- hoc committees for situations where the issues on development or management of the water resources affects more than one hydrological area as defined in the Second Schedule to this Bill.
“(2) The Minister may delegate the power under subsection (1) of this section to any person or Institution as deemed appropriate
“12.-(1) The Minister may, in consultation with the Federal Executive Council, by notice in the Gazette, establish a Committee to coordinate implementation of any international agreement entered into by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a foreign government or any other international body or organisation relating to:
(a) investigating, managing, monitoring, and protecting water resources.
“(b) regional co-operation on water resources;
“(c) acquiring, constructing, altering, operating or maintaining a waterworks connected to such agreement; or
“(d) the allocation, use and supply of water according to the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and avoidance of significant trans-boundary harm.
“(2) The Minister shall consult with all affected States prior to entering into any international agreement on a river basin.
“13. -(1) For the purpose of this Bill, the functions of the Minister shall be:
(a) to formulate national Policy and water resources Management strategy to guide the integrated planning, management, development, use and conservation of the nation’s water resources and provide guidance for formulation of hydrological area resources strategies under section 94 of this Bill;
“(b) The Policy and Strategy referred to in paragraph (a) of this subsection shall be based on basin strategies developed by the Commission, recommendations of the National Council on Water Resources and all other institutions in the water resources sector in consultations with other stakeholders;
“(c) to provide guidance for policy and standards for water supply and sanitation towards promoting uniform technical and service’ standards and infrastructure development across the country;
“(d) to facilitate the periodic review and update national water legislation to ensure consistency with national policy under paragraphs (a) and (c) of this sub section;
“(e) to undertake planning for implementation of Sector Policies, Strategies and Master Plans, and in consultation with the Commission, to provide general guidance to relevant Sector institutions on achievement of the objectives;
“(f) based on the performance of existing irrigation systems and considerations of relevant National and basin Policy and strategy on irrigation, as well as economic efficiency and social development, provide guidance to the Authorities responsible for irrigation management and development on criteria to govern decisions on investments for future development of irrigation Programs;
“(g) to provide guidance to institutions in the sector in formulating development plans and projects;
“(h) to monitor the level of service provision for water supply and sanitation across Nigeria with a view to providing and disseminating data for planning, socio-economic development, investments, as well as infrastructure distribution to both Federal and state Governments, National water Council and other Stakeholders;
“(i) to provide technical support for the survey, investigation, planning and design of water resources projects with input from relevant Professional institutions;
“(j) to implement development projects of a multi-purpose nature, and for flood management, that are outside the mandate of individual service delivery Agencies but in collaboration with relevant sector Agencies;
“(k) to support, monitor and evaluate programmes and institutions in the sector;
“(l) to provide technical guidance to the National Council on Water Resources and its committees;
(m) to liaise with donors and supervise donor and government funded projects;
“”n) to promote all aspects of public-private partnerships in the development of water resources infrastructure;
“(o) to prepare and submit an annual report to the National Assembly within 90 days of the end of each financial year that monitors and evaluates the quantitative and qualitative status of the nation’s water resources and report on the Ministry’s commitments related to water resources development and service delivery;
“(p) to represent the Federation in international conferences, meetings and, negotiations on matters related to water;
“(q) in consultation with relevant Sector institutions, State Government, and Ministries, Departments and Agencies responsible for environment, climate change, health, agriculture, natural disaster management and rural development. identify areas which, in accordance with the laws of the Federation and Nigeria’s international obligations, to be designated as protected areas by the Commission and collaborate with the Commission to achieve this;
“(r) to undertake such activities and issue such directives as shall be expedient subject to due notification to appropriate Agencies to remediate emergency situations that may threaten any water course within the country;
“(s) to receive the reports of the National Council on Water Resources and implement such decisions as they affect the duties of the Minister as identified in such reports.
“(2) The Minister shall perform such other functions, as are provided in this Bill as well as any other functions as may be directed by the President.
(3) The Minister may delegate any of his functions in writing to any person, body, institution, agency or authority for the purpose of performing those functions in accordance with this Bill.
“14. -(1) The Minister may make Regulations as is expedient for the purpose of giving full effect to the provisions as it relates to PART III of this Bill.
“(2) The contravention of any Regulations issued pursuant to any of the provisions on subsection (1) of this section shall constitute an offence and shall be punishable as prescribed in the Regulations”.