Lawmakers Receive Copies of Water Bill, to Begin Debate on Legislation after Annual Vacation

*We’ll always defend our peoples’ interest, says Abiante

 *House orders BPE to halt  privatisation of five power assets 

Udora Orizu in Abuja

Copies of the controversial Water Resources Bill would be distributed to members of the House of Representatives ahead of the debate when it’s presented for second reading.
Last month, concerned lawmakers had again kicked against the reintroduction of the controversial bill when it was presented for first reading.
A member Hon. Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue) at the plenary had raised a point of order, reminding the Speaker Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila that the bill generated lots of controversies and shouldn’t be brought back.

However, at the plenary Thursday, the sponsor of the newly reintroduced bill, Chairman Committee on Water Resources, Hon. Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) directed the House Clerk to ensure every lawmaker gets a copy.
Soli who said consideration of the Bill won’t be rushed, appealed to his colleagues to take their time during the period of two months annual vacation to study the 154 clauses and also subject it to a third party opinion.

Soli added: “I just want to inform the members now that the bill has been re-gazetted. Now I’m calling on the clerk to please ensure that bill goes to every member because of the importance of the bill and I call on my colleagues to please kindly take time and read that bill, subject that bill to it to a third party. You have time now to subject that bill back home during our holidays.”

In a related development, a member of the House of Representatives from Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Awaji Inombek Abiante has assured Ijaw leader of determination of lawmakers from the region to always fight for their interest on any matters of national importance.

Abiante who stated this on Wednesday, in his office while addressing members of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) who paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja, also called on the Ijaw nation to build synergies with other ethnic nationalities with a view to forming a formidable team that can always champion a common objective for the benefit of Nigerians.  
The group was in his office to communicate the position of the Ijaw nation to him for onward transmission to other lawmakers of Ijaw extraction in the National Assembly on the reintroduced National Water Resources Bill.

“On this bill, we’re all aware that this not the first time this bill is coming up. It has been introduced, and we have always stood in defense of the interest of our people. And we pray, and we can even pledge that this time, will not be different.
“We have heard from you, we have heard the fears, and this is our own fear as well. We will stand by it. The waterways, the rivers, the creeks are equivalent to our own farm lands and we will look at it in that light.

“We may have suffered some injuries during the enactment of the land use decree which from findings was actually a minority report. But today, we have to live with it. But now that we are here, given the opportunity, we will continue to defend the interest of our people,” he said.
The group led by its President, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, highlighted the reasons why Nigerians and Ijaw nation should reject the reintroduced National Water Resources Bill currently before the Legislature.

Okaba stated that: “Notwithstanding that the bill seeks to inter alia commercialise the utilisation of water resources via a licencing regime and collapses previous legislation relating to water resources into a single instrument, the reintroduction of this bill in the twilight days of the Buhari-led administration.

“At such a critical time in the history of Nigeria with the various recurrent challenges really calls for circumspect on the part of well-meaning Nigerians, and indeed the Ijaw nation in the consideration of the bill which appears to be targeted at controlling the coastal environments of the Ijaw nation”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has directed the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to stop the process of selling the five Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) power generation plants until due process was strictly complied with.

The lawmakers also cautioned the Director General BPE, Alex Okoh to desist from any act to facilitate the sales of the five power plants until duly authorised by the shareholders in a formal meeting as stipulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020.
The resolution of the lawmakers was sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Chairman House Committee on Power, Hon. Magaji Dau Aliyu at plenary yesterday.

Moving the motion, Aliyu noted that the National Council on Privatisation and Board of Directors of the NDPHC in collaboration with the BPE through a request for expression of interest had resolved to sale five power plants at Calabar, Cross River State, Ihorbor, Edo State, Olorunsigbo, Omotosho and Geregu, Kogi State.
He said the House was aware that the plants were constructed under the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) with gross installed capacities at 150 condition SO6MW, 507MW, 634MW, 513MW and 754MW respectively to support the delivery of core mandate of company of ensuring the stability of Nigeria’s Power Sector.

He said the House was also aware that the shareholding of the NDPHC was held by the federal government – 47 per cent; states and local governments – 53 per cent; while the board has the Vice President as the Chairman, six state governors each representing one of the six geopolitical zones and four Federal Ministers of Justice, Finance, Power and State Petroleum.
He expressed concerns that the federal government insisted on proceeding with the sale of the assets despite the fact that the consent of other shareholders had not been resolved.

The lawmaker warned that the interest of the shareholders and national economy would be jeopardised if urgent action was not taken to prevent the BPE from selling the assets under irregular procurement process.
Contributing in support of the motion, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu said the federal government cannot sell assets belonging to them and other stakeholders.

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