Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The Minister of Water Resources, Mr. Suleiman Adamu, has attributed the controversies over the proposed National Water Resources Bill to lack of proper understanding of its contents and merits by some stakeholders.
Adamu, who drew the attention of stakeholders in the Water sector to the importance of the proposed bill in his opening remark at the 27th Regular Meeting of the National Council on Water Resources in Abuja, said: “The debate over the bill comes against the backdrop of a situation where the country’s health is being undermined by unsafe drinking water, its agriculture battling with under production, threatening our national food security while the sources of water supply have been subjected to much abuse with the attendant threat on the environment.
“The bill is, therefore, the manifestation of the government’s desire to ensure that the citizens derive maximum benefits from the country’s water resource endowments and potentials.”
He explained that contrary to the narrative of the naysayers, the bill was the product of extensive national consultations that consolidated four existing laws with the country’s international obligations to ensure the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and consideration of Nigeria’s water resources.
He said: “It is therefore a holistic document that contains provision for the establishment and management of all the agencies under the FMWR including the River Basin Development Authorities.”
He said that when the bill is signed into law, it would establish “a regulatory framework for the equitable, beneficial, efficient and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of the country’s surface and ground water resources and other matters connected thereto.”
The minister added that it would also ensure that the nation’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in ways that would take into account citizens’ right of access to clean water and sanitation; meeting the basic human needs of present and future generations; adapting hydrological boundaries as the basic units for water resources management; protecting the water environment for sustainability of the resources and protection of aquatic ecosystems and recognising the polluter pays principle.
Adamu said the law would equally provide for existing customary uses of water and avoidance of significant harm to other water user, support initiatives to reduce and prevent pollution and degradation of water resources among others.
The minister stated that the theme of the 27th Meeting of the National Council on Water Resources, which is “Managing Water Resources Crisis: the Nigerian Experience” has been carefully chosen to take stock of both the challenges and milestones recorded within the last one year and chart the way-forward for delivering on “our collective mandates in line with the concerted effort of the federal government towards achieving sustainable food production/security all year round, significant achievements have been recorded in irrigation development in the life of this administration. The focus is to complete as many on-going irrigation projects across the country with the target to increase the command areas under irrigation towards increased food production in line with the policy thrust of this administration.”
In their goodwill messages, the Chairmen of Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Water Resources, Senator Bello Mandiya and Hon. Sada Soli, respectively, appealed for support from Nigerians and all stakeholders in the water resources sector to allow for easy passage of the bill, insisting that it does not confer undue advantage on the federal government over the states.