Water Resources Bill Will Take Away Governors’ Powers under 1999 Constitution, Warns NCF

hairman of the House Committee on Business and Rules, Dr. Abubakar Fulata
  • Asks Gbajabiamila to apologise to Nigerians
  • A’Ibom urges lawmakers to reject the bill

Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The National Consultative Front (NCFront) Saturday warned that the Waters Resources Bill 2020, if it becomes law, would take away the powers of state governors in the federation, especially Lagos State and all states in the Niger Delta, under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Likewise, the Akwa Ibom State Government rejected the bill in entirety, warning that it was a fundamental issue that would not only stoke disaffection nationwide, but also breed profound distrust capable of destabilising the strained unity of the federation.

The group made the demand in a statement by its Head, Public Affairs Bureau, Dr. Tanko Yunusa, alleging that the National Assembly “is determined to do the interest of the president against the national interest.”

The bill, which was first initiated as an executive bill during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari, had suffered setbacks when the eighth National Assembly under Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara rejected it on the grounds that it was divisive, illegal and obnoxious.

Barely two years after the eighth parliament rejected it unanimously, the Chairman of the House Committee on Business and Rules, Dr. Abubakar Fulata brought the bill back as a private bill. Fulata was elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adamawa State, Northeast.

In its statement yesterday, the NCFront said it was worrisome that the 9th National Assembly leadership “is determined to do whatever it perceives as the interest of the Buhari Presidency, even if it is against the national interest.”

Within this context, the movement claimed that the reintroduction of the bill by the Chairman of the Committee on Business and Rules breached the rules of the lower chamber, even legislative best practice globally.

It lamented that despite noticing the anomaly and observing that the same bill was rejected by the 8th National Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, still allowed it to proceed to the third hearing.

The movement observed that its research revealed that the bill, against the House Rules, was neither gazetted nor had its clean copies circulated to members, and ordinarily should not be allowed for consideration in an ideal context.

It added that the listing of the bill without passing through first reading was a clear violation of the House Rules, which the speaker “is expected to be the custodian and which he should never have allowed in the first place.

“Even if the bill had followed due process, it would still have been unpatriotic to reintroduce a Bill that tore the country asunder, when it was first introduced as an executive bill because of its implications for national unity and cohesion.

“The bill that seeks to vest all surface and underground waters in the federal government extending to four kilometers is either based on ignorance of the geography of Nigeria or insensitive to the Nigerian peoples as a result of some yet to be determined evil motives and machinations.”

It, therefore, warned that if it became law eventually, the bill would have profound implications for the unity of the federation, fueling suspicion that those behind it had a hidden agenda for sponsoring it for the second time after its initial rejection.

“Firstly, for states in the Niger Delta, like Bayelsa state and others, such a bill will effectively take away the powers of the state governors and chairmen of Local Government Councils under the Land Use Act to administer land for the benefit of the citizens in their states which is part and parcel of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended).

“This will automatically mean that those states will for all practical political exigencies cease to exist as autonomous federating units. It is therefore for this reason that the NCFront wishes to alert all Nigerians that the Bill is intended to foist on the country an undesirable unitary state.”

Secondly, the movement noted that the bill was introduced by the Buhari regime “at a time when it was pushing for the establishment of Ruga or cattle colonies under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).”

Besides, it added that the bill was roundly rejected by Nigerians because it was perceived as a ploy by the government to take over lands from indigenous populations and hand them over to foreign immigrants and nomads.

“It is preposterous to imagine that coming as a private member’s bill, it will garner enough traction to scale the hurdle of Olympian suspicion against the bill.

“Any attempt to process the Bill further would amount to an unnecessary waste of government resources, which cost may be passed to the citizens in the form of obnoxious taxation which this government has come to be known for.”

The movement, therefore, described the parliament as “the sleight of hand, for the impunity of bypassing due process to introduce a bill that was earlier rejected by the people because of its potential for dividing the country.”

It warned that this treacherous act by the leaders of the House of Representatives no doubt “portrays them, particularly the Chairman, House Committee on Business and Rules, as unpatriotic, traitorous and unfit to continue to be the leaders of the Nigeria’s Green Chamber

As a result, the movement demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Water Resources Bill, 2020 and asked the speaker to tender a public apology to Nigerians for failing to prevent what was a clear attempt at sabotaging their will with the possibility of throwing this country into avoidable chaos.

It equally demanded that Fulata, the Chairman of the House Committee on Business and Rules resigned with immediate effect for breaching the Rules of the House, claiming that he “is unfit to hold that office that requires trust.”

Specifically, it urged Nigerians to be eternally vigilant and always be prepared “to resist what appears to be conspiracy of the leadership of the National Assembly to subvert the will of the people in pleasing the Buhari presidency at all cost as a rubber-stamp assembly.”

Also faulting the bill Friday, the Akwa Ibom State Government said it viewed the bill as obnoxious and vexatious, warning that the National Assembly should not entertain such bills citing its divisive tendencies.

During a visit to THISDAY Abuja Office, the state Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr. Ini Ememobong urged the federal lawmakers to focus on the probes, rather than introduce vexatious legislations.

He said: ”You will recall that when the Bill was first introduced it did not just get condemnation from the states but also from the right thinking Nigerians. The idea of playing ostrich has become a political disposition of people who do not mean well for the country.

“We must think as Nigerians. We must not align with issues that will undermine our unity as a federation. We must not in any way align with issues that have the capacity of breaking the country and further creating inequalities in the country.

“There is this saying that they came for pastors. I did not fight because I was not a pastor. They went for Muslims. I did not fight because I’m not a Muslim. At the end, I was the only one left and they came for me and there’s no one to fight for me,” he said.

The commissioner noted that all states in the Niger Delta states “are taking positions. We are calling on Nigerians to take positions. It is the same position we took in mineral resources when there were different regimes for mineral resources.

“The country is suffering from it because of the overdependence on oil, whereas we could have developed all our mineral resources at the same point. During the lockdown, we could not find who to sell oil. The whole country is suffering.

“Even at the level of commissioners of information, we are meeting and discussing because we must have a joint position. It is a position to save the country because injustice to one part of the country is injustice to all,” Ememobong said.