Anyone Rejecting Water Resources Bill is Unpatriotic, Says Expert

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Engr. Michael Ale

Mary Nnah

The National President, Association Of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners Practitioners (AWDROP) who doubles as the founder and CEO of Global Initiative for Nigeria Development (GIND) Development Nigeria, Engr. Michael Ale, has described those calling for withdrawal of the Water Resources bill as unpatriotic.

He therefore called on Nigerians to shun the call for the removal of the Water Resources bill by various political and socio-cultural groups, noting that many are just rejecting the bill without keenly understanding its content.

While speaking to newsmen in Lagos at the weekend, Ale urged Nigerians not advance political reasons or ethnic sentiments in order to discourage the water bill from becoming law, adding that the nation stands to gain more economically and otherwise if the bill is properly assessed and scrutinised before it is passed by the legislature.

He urged all state assemblies to urgently consider the bill in such a way to meet the peculiar needs of their respective states in the same way the Operation Amotekun law in the south west was passed.

The Sustainable Development Expert advised that instead of calling for its death, the Water Resources Bill could be amended in which case some portions considered controversial would be expunged and the harmless portions will be passed and such exercised should be replicated at all state levels with a regulatory commission at the Federal level.

His words: “Why should we jettison the whole bill just because some part of it has been greeted with controversy tainted with political and ethnic sentiments? It’s like throwing away the baby with bath water. In line with the International best practices, water law is germane to protecting our water resources, just like we have laws governing the Airspace and land activities. The current practice along the water sector is the Integrated Water Resources Management Commission which requires that the water Resources must be governed and managed well for the sake of sustainable and equitable use of this common Resource by all, irrespective of political affiliations, race, gender and sociological or cultural beliefs and interpretations. But the current political atmosphere and the bad naming of the bill is creating unnecessary apprehension in our polity leading to misconception and distortion of the process that has gone through legislative proceedings.

“We should rather call for a proper amendment of some controversial portions of the bill instead of outright rejection. The bill isn’t perfect as far as I’m concerned because it has been trailed with controversies and perhaps misinterpreted. We all know our constitution allows the federal government to take over the land.

“Frankly speaking, rejecting the proposed Water Resources bill is akin to rejecting developmental projects like provision of water, construction of roads, markets and other projects being executed by the Government.

“Those misinterpreting the bill now don’t even have the authority to do so because they do not have the professional understanding.

It is high time we have a water resources bill passed like the petroleum regulatory bill.

Imagine if the petroleum regulatory bill is coming at this time, I am so sure it will not pass. What is not regulated cannot be termed to be economically important. Water is both social and economic good; it’s a human right and must be protected.

Speaking further, Ale counselled that the proposed bill could help check the perennial flooding ravaging the nation, saying: “Water Resources is causing war in some countries now, imagine the flooding we experience yearly and nothing has been done on curbing it. This bill gives direction on who takes responsibility and how things are done properly. Let’s take the critical look at the petroleum industry.

“For example, federal government control who establishes petrol stations and state government is still part of those activities that have to do with establishment of petrol stations, do we have any controversy over that? There could be synergy between the federal and state government on this,” he said.

Ale who cautioned that not passing the proposed bill could result into the perpetuation of the current disorderliness and exploitation of our water resources, added that: “Recently, just about two weeks ago, on the main road, somebody was drilling on the main street of Sabo in Oyo State causing vehicular gridlock preventing Nigerians from going about getting their means of livelihood. When there is no law, what do you expect? Imaging that most of these bottling industries have been abstracting the common Resources which belong to you and getting it free without any guideline on replenishment or guiding principles to give back to the operating community thus making billions of dollars yearly without any recourse to the source for its protection?

He also advised the state and federal government to come up with permit, licensing fees, water use charges and the rest to generate funds and urged Nigerians not to attribute the passing of the bill to institutionalizing RUGA, adding that RUGA cannot be coming through the back door with the bill as many Nigerians perceived.

He further disclosed that the benefit of the bill is that most practitioners would be supported by financial institutions: “And the mining of water would not be an all comers’ affair especially by foreigners who takes no interest in the welfare of the host environment as their only interest is to make dollars and send back to their countries.”

“The merit is that business would grow, water quality would be protected and it prevents any earth tremor because people can control any activities they are doing and by the time they get a license, the government is getting taxes to take care of you and I.”

“This could be an additional means where the government can get money, not from the poor but from the rich who are gaining so much by exploiting our water resources. Let us open our eyes and read the bill very well. A lot of people that are commenting on the bill have not read it. They are only whipping up political and ethnocentric sentiments. But our lawmakers can expunge those portions that seem to threaten other ethnic groups’ existence and well-being”, he said.