Contentious clauses to be revisited

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

An Executive Bill for the establishment of a regulatory framework for the management of Nigeria’s water resources sector suffered a setback on the floor of the Senate thursday as some senators opposed certain provisions of the bill

Chairman of the 17-man Senate Committee on Water Resources, Senator Ubali Shitu, while presenting a 176-page report of his committee on a bill for an Act to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria; to provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources and for related matters, formally moved a motion for the Senate to consider the report and was seconded by Senator Emmanuel Paulker.

He said the Senate had concluded debates on the general principle of the bill and referred it to the committee since November 22, 2017, for further legislative action
According to him, the committee held a two-day public hearing on the bill from December 5 to 6, 2017 with subsequent mark-up sessions.

Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, while lending his support to the bill, emphasised that it was an Executive Bill that should be considered and supported by the Senate
Senators Ibrahim Gobir and Binta Masi Garba also corroborated the submission of Senator Lawan, saying the bill will bring sanity into the country’s water resources management
Senate President Bukola Saraki on his part, called for a clause-by-clause approval of the 152-clause committee report.

He had barely gotten to clause four when Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, rose to object to clauses four and five of the report, wondering why the management of Nigeria’s water resources will be vested in the federal government

Clause four of the report harped about public trusteeship of water, saying as the public trustee of the country’s water resources, the federal government, acting through the minister and the institutions created in this Act or pursuant to this Act, shall ensure that the water resources of the country are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner for the benefit of all persons and in accordance with its constitutional mandate

Clause five of the report says states may make provisions for the management, use and control of water resources occurring solely within the boundaries of the state but shall be guided by the policy and principles of the federal government in relation to integrated Water Resources Management and this Act.

Akpabio said the rivers spreading across the country traverse different states and communities, and emphasised the need for states where the rivers and groundwater are located to be actively involved in the regulatory framework.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa was quick to support Akpabio’s position and posited that the issue of water resources management is a very contentious one that should be handled with care.
He mentioned the legal tussle between Lagos State Government and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) over the management of Lagos waters and creeks, saying the case is still pending before the Court of Appeal.

Speaking in the same vein, Senator Solomon Olamilekan talked about small rivers that abound in many states and wondered what will become of them if the bill is eventually passed.
He therefore suggested the setting up of a committee to look into the controversial clauses in the report

Summing up the submissions, Senate president said there was the need for the controversial clauses four and five to be revisited.

Saraki therefore referred the report to the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Senate Committees on Water Resources and Judiciary “with input from the legal department.”
He said the joint committee is expected to report back to the Senate on May 30.