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Water resources bill: Reps leaders disagree over hearing bill

Global day of prayer with Rev Chris Oyakhilome

There was confusion on Tuesday over the Water Resources Bill as two heads of the House of Representatives pointedly disagreed over public hearings on it.

The Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason, said formal reviews would be hung on the dubious bill, which was relinquished by the eighth National Assembly.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, who once again introduced the bill on July 23, 2020, said there would be not any more formal conferences on it.

He said a formal conference on the bill was held in the eighth National Assembly, including that there was no requirement for another in the current ninth gathering.

Yet, some National Assembly individuals from the Middle Belt and southern pieces of the nation pledged to oppose any endeavor to pass the bill.

The leader had in 2017 introduced the dubious bill to the two offices of the National Assembly. The bill tries to move the control of water assets from the states to the Federal Government.

The Senate on May 24, 2018, thought about the leader bill for second perusing, during which legislators were separated across provincial lines.
While northern senators supported the proposal and its objectives, their southern counterparts opposed it.

The controversy the bill generated frustrated its passage by both the Senate and House of Representatives.

The proposed law is titled, “A Bill for An Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, Provide for the Equitable and Sustainable Redevelopment, Management, Use and Conservation of Nigeria’s Surface Water and Groundwater Resources and for Related Matter.”

When passed, it will concentrate the control of water resources around rivers Niger and Benue as well as other water ways which cut across 20 states in the hands of the Federal Government.

The affected states are Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Plateau and Kebbi states.

Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka; and organisations such as Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum; the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum, had last week warned the Federal Government and the National Assembly against bringing back the bill.

Bill bought back illegally, says Rivers Rep

Speaking to one of our correspondents, the lawmaker representing Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro Constituency of Rivers State in the House, Awaji-Inombek Abiante, said he was surprised when the bill was brought back to the floor of the House.

Abiante said, “I was in the chamber one morning and I saw someone (Fulata) move a motion, bringing something (the bill) back. I can’t find it in any gazette. If there is, they should let me know because nobody knows it all. The attempt was made; they said second reading and Committee of the Whole. It is not procedural as far as I know in this National Assembly. It is against the procedure.”

When told that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), sent the bill to the last Assembly but it failed to pass and that such bills could be revisited by the current Assembly, the lawmaker argued that the process through which the legislation was reintroduced was flawed.

He stated, “Bills that were not passed, you cannot bring them back in the manner in which they have attempted to bring this back. It cannot come back that way. It is only bills that have been passed, which have become an Act of Parliament and which are not assented to (by the President) that can come back in this manner, through a motion.

That bill, as it was killed in the eighth Assembly, can never come back this way. So, we should be able to respect our own rules. At least, let us know exactly what we are doing so that we can stand and defend the institution wherever we are.”

The lawmaker warned that the proposed law would adversely affect Lagos State and states along the rivers Niger and Benue and their tributaries.

Water bill: Lagos, Rivers, Benue, others won’t exist again, says lawmaker

Abiante said, “There are some states that will not exist. Lagos will not exist. If you say 3kms from the water, there will be no Lagos State for Lagos people. If you take three kilometres away from River Niger in Anambra, Kogi, Benue, what will be left? It is just like telling us that one man wants to sit in Abuja and be controlling the entire country and every resource, both ground and surface waters.”


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