Uproar, another rejection as water resources bill resurfaces
By Daniel Kanou
Still, President Muhammadu Buhari has resubmitted the controversial and vexatious Water Resources Bill to the National Assembly.
This is the third time that the president has presented the bill perceived as odious to the assembly.
The bill which is sponsored by the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli (APC, Katsina), nearly tore the nation and the National Assembly apart, when it was first introduced few years ago.
In 2018, during his first term, under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the president introduced the bill and it was rejected. Subsequently, in 2020, shortly after being sworn in for his second term, he reintroduced the bill and again it was voted down and voted down.
The controversial bill has continued to spark an outcry among stakeholders and some commentators say it will be a call for anarchy if it is desperately passed, ignoring the danger looming.
Although the bill’s sponsors tried to assure lawmakers that the new version of the legislation would capture all states’ interests, vigilant observers who spoke to the Sunday Sun said that “there is more to it than that. surpasses the ordinary eye”.
In context, the relentless campaign by Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu and a clique of lawmakers in the National Assembly to secure the passage of the bill has continued to fuel speculation that there may – be ulterior motives.
Most Nigerians are of the view that the bill, if passed, will prevent state and local authorities as well as individuals from using even their garden water without permission from Abuja.
It is curious to see the critical Nigerians who spoke with our reporter why the President is determined to impose the bill on Nigerians.
The reintroduction of the highly suspicious bill is seen as a bad decision as it lends credence to the suspicions of observant citizens that some evil plan is being hatched somewhere to deprive Nigerians of their indigenous lands and resources and make it accessible perhaps to shepherds or jihadists.
One of the offensive provisions of the bill is that although there is popular agitation for resource control and devolution of powers to state and local governments, the bill seeks to compel Nigerians to allow and to pay taxes to the federal government like oil and gas operators before they drill boreholes in backyards.
The bill also seeks to cede ownership of the waterways, Benue Valley and riverbanks to the federal government.
Predictably, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; the umbrella socio-cultural Igbo organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) as well as other rights groups have outright rejected the recent reintroduction of the bill in the House of Representatives.
PANDEF through its spokesperson, Hon. Ken Robinson, vowed he would continue to reject the bill, which he described as heinous, draconian, imperialistic and unnecessary evil.
“People in the Niger Delta region, especially in the south-south geopolitical zone had rejected the water resources bill from the beginning and our position has not changed; it remains rejected.
“This bill is not only odious, but also draconian and imperialistic. It is a needless evil. That’s why it drew wild condemnation upon its introduction.
“The Eighth National Assembly listened to the voice of the people by rejecting it. He was also resigned when he was reintroduced in this IX National Assembly in 2020, following a similar denunciation by citizens.
“It is therefore disturbing that the bill has again been presented to the House of Representatives, all the more so with less than a year to the end of the session of this National Assembly.
“The questions we would like the sponsors of the bill to answer are; why the insistence on this bill? What interests are they trying to satisfy? questioned PANDEF.
He said it was most absurd and ruthless that in the face of growing demands for the transfer of powers to federated units, the federal government was plotting to give itself more powers through this heinous bill.
PANDEF asked: “Do we need more publicity that our oil and gas resources have been plundered, over the years, by the federal government and its agents; our hitherto luxurious ecosystem has been decimated and basic livelihoods destroyed with little or nothing to show for, in terms of developing our communities and improving people’s lives?
“Yet they now want to control our water resources; the inhabitants of the Niger delta region give him a big no.
PANDEF urged members of the House of Representatives and senators not to allow themselves to be used by self-serving officials and groups to secure legislation that would exacerbate tension and crisis in the country.
“We caution, in particular, federal lawmakers of South-South extraction, and indeed, of all regions of the South and the Middle Belt not to support an anti-peace, dangerous and which could destroy the fragile unity of this country,” the group warned.
PANDEF also described the bill’s sponsors’ claim that southern governors now support it as illusory and absurd, warning that such a claim should be dismissed.
For Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the bill is completely odious, reprehensible, rejected and should be thrown in the trash.
The organization’s national publicity secretary, Dr. Alex Chiedozie Ogbonnia, said the bill is completely at odds with current national realities.
“At a time when we are seeking decentralization of powers to states and local government areas, some people are still toying with the idea of controlling river banks and all that. It’s so sad.
“This is nothing but another RUGA. In the same way we resisted the bill last time, we are even more resolute now. This is unacceptable and totally out of step with the realities,” a- he added.
He therefore asked the governors and members of the National Assembly of the Southeast to completely resist and reject the bill.
According to him, “our position is clear and has not changed. We have said no to the bill and we urge our governors and federal legislators to reject it as well. Besides the South East, political leaders in the South West, South South and Center North are also expected to reject this heinous bill.
For his part, too, Afenifere opposed the reintroduction of the bill.
Afenifere’s national publicity secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, told the Sunday Sun that the bill was just another way to put RUGA through the back door, saying it was unacceptable and should be rejected.
He expressed concern that reintroducing the bill would deprive indigenous peoples of their lands, insisting that it is not in the best interests of ethnic nationalities.
“The reintroduction of the Water Resources Bill is unacceptable to Afenifere; it’s because it’s another way to deprive indigenous people of their land and it’s not in the best interest of the different ethnic nationalities given the experience with the federal government. he submitted.
Hon. Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), also expressed serious concerns over the bill, pointing out that most Nigerians rejected the bill the last time it appeared on the house floor.
He told the Sunday Sun that “some of us are not comfortable with this bill. It’s worrying and we suspect an ulterior motive. I don’t think it’s in the best interests of Nigerians.”
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), an advocacy group that has been at the forefront of the ‘Our Water, Our Right’ crusade, says the reintroduction of the bill is unacceptable and must be fought .
CAPPA’s Director of Media and Publicity, Comrade Phillip Jakpor, told the Sunday Sun that “the bill is evil, suspicious, heinous, wicked, controversial and loaded with malware.
“This is a bill that all well-meaning Nigerians must resist.”
The university professor, Dr. Abraham Essien, was no different in his eyes. He told the Sunday Sun in his reaction that ‘beyond the surface provisions, there are reasons for concern that the Bill seeks to give full control of all waterways and their banks to the Nigeria to Fulani herders with their cattle; and subsequently to pursue their ambition of territorial expansionism, on the pretext that all Nigerians have basic rights of free movement”.
According to him, “fear is particularly widespread because Buhari always expressed his belief in the grazing routes and nomadic rights of his Fulani kin, without expressing a corresponding concern about the devastation caused by clashes between farmers and herders across the country. country.
“It is no exaggeration to assume that if the law is passed, the natives will be expelled from their native lands, which amounts to handing over the country, or parts of it, to the Fulani through the back door.”
Coming at a time when Nigerians are calling for proper federalism which involves devolution of powers to states and local authorities, the introduction of a water resources bill by President Buhari is seen as anti-peace.
The best thing the president should be advised to do according to the public gauge is to withdraw the bill in the public interest.