Presidency Begins Moves to Ensure Passage of Water Resources Bill

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By Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Presidency has commenced fresh move towards ensuring the early passage of the National Water Resources Bill 2018 stepped down at its third reading on the floor of the Senate in May.

Already, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, has been mandated to explain the provisions of the Bill to the general

public through the media.

The Executive Bill which ran into troubled waters on the floor of the Senate on May 24 due to some contentious provisions seeks, among others, for exclusive control and management of Rivers and Lakes in the country by the Federal Government.

Titled a Bill for the establishment of a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria and provides for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface and ground water resources and for related matters.

Enang at a press briefing Friday said the intent of the bill was misunderstood by lawmakers who kicked against it at the last stage of consideration and some Nigerians making negative comments on it.

According to him, ” the National Water Resources Bill 2018 which was forwarded to the National Assembly in 2016 as an executive bill seeks to bring about conglomeration, amalgamation and consolidation of all the existing laws on control and management of water flowing from one state to the other.”

The intent of the Bill, he added, is to make the Nigeria water ways practice in tandem with standard global practice.

He explained further that the Bill did not intend to confer any new power on the federal government as regards management and control of water ways practices in the country but to harmonize all the laws and Acts into one document .

“Prior to the National Water Resources bill, various extant laws like the Water Act of 1993, National Water Resource Institute Act of 1985, River Basin Development Authority Act of 1986 and Nigeria Hydrological Act Services Agencies Establishment Act of 2010 have already in one way or the other given the right of control and management of Rivers to the federal government as constitutional provided for by item 64 of the exclusive legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended”, he said.

Enang also backed his argument with constitutional provisions saying, “The right to the use, management and control of all surface water and ground water affecting more than one state pursuant to item 64 of the exclusive legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, and as set out in the first schedule to this Act, together with the beds and banks, is vested in the provisions of this Act…” .

He stressed that the purpose of his explanations was not to argue against or condemn the Senate for stepping down the Bill for now but to make Nigerians know that there was no any sinister motive behind the Bill as reported on social media platforms and newspaper articles.

Meanwhile, the report on the contentious Bill expected to have been submitted to the Senate on May 30 by the ad-hoc committee constituted for that purpose is still being awaited just as the Senate went on recess Thursday which would last till July 3

The ad- hoc committee made up of Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of Senate Committee on Water Resources and those of Judiciary and Legal matters, and Director of Legal Services, was mandated to look into areas of controversies in the Bill and report back to the Senate.

Some Senators including Godswill Akpabio, Gbenga Ashafa, and Adeola Olamilekan had during debate on the Bill argued that it would create controversy, since all the rivers and waters in Nigeria cut across two or more states, which, according to them, implies that the federal government will be in control of all the waters and resources thereof in Nigeria.

They argued that it was not right for the Bill to just allow the federal government takeover all the rivers, saying, “the right thing should be for the Bill to specify the rivers in Nigeria which the federal government should takeover.”