Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Reject Revived Water Resources Bill

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By Deji Elumoye

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has rejected the controversial National Water Resources bill which was re-introduced in the House of Representatives last month.

The forum in a statement issued yesterday with the title: ‘We Must Reject Illegally Revived Water Bill’, and signed by Yinka Odumakin (Southwest); Chief Guy Ikokwu (Southeast); Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-south) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), stated that the bill “which we thought was dead with the last legislative session has arbitrarily been reintroduced in the House in a breach of its rules, legislative convention and provisions of the 1999 Constitution before the House adjourned for a two-month recess on July 23, 2020, according to a newspaper report”

On the assumption that the bill is projected for passage by the House on resumption from recess in September, the forum called on all the communities opposed to the bill “meant to grab land around waterways for cattle herders, to organise community special sittings for their representatives to explain the meaning of this latest move and their roles in it.

“Freedom-loving Nigerians should be ready for protracted resistance to this move to grab land around waterways for Miyetti Allah by the executive arm of the government.”

The forum said: “The bill seeks to bring all water resources (surface and underground) and the banks of the water sources under the control of the federal government through its agencies to be established by the bill.

“Section 13 of the bill states that: ‘In implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and groundwater resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment as well as upstream and downstream interests’.

“Section 2(1) of the bill states that: ‘All surface water and ground water, wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people.”

It added that piece of legislation in the eighth Assembly didn’t secure the concurrence of the Senate and the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari before that Assembly elapsed in June 2019.

The forum emphasised that further investigations revealed that the bill was neither gazetted nor clean copies circulated to members before it was committed on July 23 for passage, in breach of the rules of the House.

Order 12 Rule 18 of the House standing rules state that: “Bills passed by the preceding Assembly and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence was made or passed by the Senate and forwarded to the House for which no concurrence was made or ‘negative’ or which were passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the president for assent, but for which assent or withholding thereof, was not communicated before the end of the tenure of the Assembly, the House may resolve that such bills, upon being re-gazetted or clean copies circulated, be re-considered in the Committee of the Whole.”

The group also quoted Part 2, section 5(1) of the Land Use Act of 1978, which states that: “It shall be lawful for the governor in respect of lands, whether or not in urban areas to grant statutory rights of occupancy to any person for all purposes,” and Article 7, subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution also grants state governors powers over land, to back its submission.