Says Bill still open for Public Hearing

By Gabriel Ewepu

As the National Water Resources Bill continue to generate reactions across the country, Executive Director, Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission, NIWRMC, Engr Magashi Bashir, yesterday, maintained that downstream States and their communities are well protected by the proposed Bill when passed into law.

Bashir stated this while explaining some salient provisions of the Bill virtually to water resources correspondents.

According to him, the Bill predates the Buhari-led administration, and the draft bill by ATKINS International was later reviewed by by eminent Nigerian professionals/scholars with Prof Goldface Irokalibe (Prof of International Water Law/Expert) leading and Prof Lekan Oyebande (foremost hydrologist) and Barr Tanwa Koya, amongst others in the team, including the Nigeria Society of Engineers, NSE, made inputs into the Bill even before the current administration.

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The Bill also had gone through scrutiny of the National Council on Water Resource with all Commissioners of Water Resources of States of the Federation as members

He said: “The Bill has gone through some further reviews to accommodate other opinions as indicated in the Statement of Prof. Lanre Fagbohun, SAN.

“If there are specific issues, we should highlight them and let’s take necessary action. Water Law accommodating principle of Integrated Water Resources Management is necessary considering that water a shared resource and that is even the best practice globally.

“Water law is imperative, particularly to manage water bodies traversing two or more states. You may wish to check Schedule 64 of the our  Constitution for lists all transboundary water in Nigeria.

“Our country is mainly drained by Rivers Niger and Benue and their tributaries. We must remember, that most of Nigeria fresh water flow from the North Southwards.

“The bill seeks more to protect the downstream beneficiaries.”

While answering questions on some critical areas of the proposed law, he pointed that the Bill is open to debate and public hearing on increasing number of hectares of land for agricultural activities from five hectares as stated in the Bill to even 20 hectares, which water usage will not be charged.

“Any farmland that needs water to run it and is above five hectares is commercial but this is also open to discussions which the Bill is still with the National Assembly.

“There is still openings for discussions from five hectares to 20 hectares depending on the agricultural activity the farmer will undertake on that land.

“Five hectares is for subsistence farming in order for the farmer and his or her family can have food to eat, which the farmer takes water free of charge”, he added.

He said with the Bill’s existence of 16 years, “On customer issue on water, item 64 on the Exclusive List of the Constitution of 1999 as amended and Sections 2Sub 1 of the Bill which says it recognizes the right use of water, management and control of all surface and groundwater affecting more than one state both water that is domiciled in the State; water that travels from one State to the other under the purview of the federal government.

“And this is also the constitutional provision that is going to guard against any conflict arises between one state or the other, it is the federal government that is expected to look at those problems.

“It is not about the federal government monopolizing this but we also have a lot of examples; the airspace is under the purview of the federal government then we have the Trunk A Roads that transverse the States which is under the purview of the federal government.”

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