The national water resources bill was reintroduced in the national assembly, according to Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue, and the state is against it.
Recall that on Tuesday, the bill passed its first reading in the House of Representatives.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker from Katsina state, Sada Soli, is the sponsor of a measure that would create a regulatory framework for the country’s water resources.
The bill was initially sent to the parliament by the executive during the eighth national assembly.
It was passed in 2020 by the green chamber but was later withdrawn following criticism that trailed the decision of the lower parliament.
The bill had sought to bring water resources — both surface and underground — and the banks of the water sources “affecting more than one state”, under the control of the federal government.
When the bill was reintroduced last Tuesday, two Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers kicked against it, protesting why the rejected bill is being re-introduced in the current assembly.
Explaining that the bill could have been modified, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house, said the bill’s sponsor informed him that governors, including Ortom and the attorney-general of states, made input and agreed that the bill be reintroduced.
Reacting in a statement issued on Sunday by Terver Akase, his chief press secretary, Ortom said Benue is against the bill and will not be part of any discussion in support of it.
While describing the bill as “obnoxious” the governor said it seeks to take over what rightfully belongs to states.
“The bill which seeks to bring all water sources (surface and underground), as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies is anti-federalism and negates the right of Nigerians to their ancestral resources,” the statement reads.
“The bill, in addition to its provisions which are grossly at variance with the Land Use Act, is disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country.
“The bill is another version of ruga and cattle colonies whose objective is to create grazing areas in the 36 states of the federation for herders and their livestock.
“We fault the submission of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila on the day the bill was reintroduced, that all Governors contributed in the drafting of the new bill. We find it unconscionable, the Speaker’s mention of Governor Samuel Ortom as one of those who endorsed the bill.
“Coming at a time when Nigerians are clamouring for proper federalism which entails devolution of powers to states and local governments, the introduction of a Water Resources Bill by the Buhari administration to deprive the people of their water resources is not only unfortunate but also smacks of insensitivity.
“Initiators of the obnoxious National Water Resources Bill are not only insensate but have also shown crass abhorrence of Nigeria’s unity as well as the current mood of the nation when people are slaughtered in their homes and even the clergy are not spared by terrorists. Shouldn’t the Presidency be more concerned about proffering a lasting solution to the orgy of killings across the country?
“We want to alert Nigerians again that if the National Water Resources Bill is passed into law, the rights of citizens over fresh water resources – ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and springs will be taken away with impunity. The bill will deny states and local government authorities as well as individuals the right to make use of the water in their backyard, until they get permission from Abuja.
“We state unequivocally that Benue will not be part of the National Water Resources Bill! Our state should therefore be counted out of any discussion that pertains to the bill.”
The governor called on other state governments to kick against the bill, adding that “this is an opportunity for all patriots to stand to be counted as those who resisted modern-day slavery”.
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