Special Report: Opposition spreads as governors reject Water Resources Bill


By Mikail Mumuni


Governors of the 36 states of the federation have rejected the proposed National Water Resources Bill 2020, saying it does not adequately address the interests of states.

Rising from the 5th teleconference meeting of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, Tuesday, 26th; July, 2022 the Governors, in a communique issued at the end of the meeting, described the proposed legislation as unconstitutional, thus joining the nationwide clamour against the bill.

They argued that the bill does not adequately address interests of the states and is inconsistent with provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Governors therefore said the bill should be reviewed with a view to accommodating the concerns of all states.

Specifically, the bill, as introduced in the 8th and current 9th National Assembly, seeks to empower the Federal Government to take over the control of water resources from states, licence the supply and commercialise the use of surface and underground waters.

While northern senators supported the bill and its objectives, their southern counterparts were strongly against it. Opponents had pointed out that if passed into law, it would hinder current move towards devolution of powers.

The Federal Ministry of Water Resources listed the benefits of the bill thus:

1. Establish effective water sector governance in Nigeria in line with global best practices.

2. Provide for effective catchment management

3. Provide for equitable and sustainable development of Nigeria’s surface and ground water.

4.  Enhance a greater participation of farmers in irrigation management and improvement in food security.

5. Provide the regulatory framework for private sector participation in water supply delivery in the country.

6. Provide for a Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) FUND to support financial investment by States & Local Govt. Areas (LGAs) in the provision of WASH services and investment in Water supply infrastructure.

7.  Provide the required legal instrument to support efficient management of the Nation’s water resources and accelerate the contribution of the water sector to national development in accordance with Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) principles.

8. It will promote equitable and affordable access to water and reducing poverty

9. Accelerate foreign direct investment opportunities and job creation in the Water Sector.

10. Guarantee citizens’ right of access to safe water and basic sanitation.

11. Provide for meeting the basic human needs of present and future generations.

12. Protecting the water environment for sustainability of the water resources and protecting of aquatic ecosystems.

The Ministry had before the latest opposition by the Governors made spirited efforts to enlist support for the Bill.

In a statement on July 19, 2022 by Mrs. Kenechukwu Offie, its Director (Press and Public Relations) titled SABOTAGING THE WATER RESOURCES BILL IS UNPATRIOTIC, the Ministry had said:

“Following the  misconception of the proposed National Water Resources Bill at the National Assembly  by some person’s or group of persons, Federal Ministry of water Resources through it’s Press and Public Relations unit, organized a Media Parley for a debriefing on the need to know the provisions of the bill and it’s benefit to the citizenry, the water sector and the nation at large.

“The urgency of the answer to certain complaints,  questions and accusations about the water sector makes it pertinent that the bill be passed at the National Assembly as the provisions will engender efficiency, effectiveness and bring about complete reform in the water sector.

“Speaking during the event which was held in Abuja on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, the Honourable Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman H. Adamu, FNSE, FAEng said that it is highly unpatriotic and disservice to the country that anyone should sabotage the effort being put in place for the actualization of the  National Water Resources bill which is meant to improve the sustainability and management of the water Resources of the country.

“He said that the bill, having generated controversies over the years has been reviewed by many water experts and highly skilled legal professionals. Some of the innovations captured in the review includes the institutionalization of independent body to help reposition and regulate the water sector.

“The Minister, noting that the propaganda will not decide if the bill be passed or not, reiterated that the need to stay committed and focused is pertinent as the legislators are knowledgeable enough to take a decision which will benefit Nigerians. He said, ” they are our representatives and I am confident that they will represent us well”.

“The Hon.Minister urged the media to make frantic effort in being acquainted with the National Water Resources bill in order not to be misguided or mislead by those who are out to undermine the truth.

“He asked, ” Does it mean that there is nothing good about the bill? The bill is not about land grab, RUGA or Fulani herdsmen.
” The bill has  answers to some of the questions on the governance of water resources. We must not be made a laughing stock at the international level. Let common sense prevail”.

“Engr. Benson Ajesegiri, a water expert and retired Director of Water Supply and PPP in FMWR disclosed that the Bill will bring peace and development to the people. We need the law for peaceful co-existence.

“Bar. Tanwa Koya who is the Legal consultant for NWB 2022 and highly experienced in the Water Sector admonished that we look at the bill from the perspective of what we tend to achieve as a nation.

“She said that the bill provided an institutional framework for the effective governance of the Water Sector.

“Other professionals who spoke include Prof O.Jimoh of FUT Minna, Engr Bashir Magashi the Executive Director of Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission.”

However, many groups, such as the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere; the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) were not persuaded as they have continued to kick against the Bill.

They said Minister of Water Resources and “a clique of lawmakers at the National Assembly have been desperately pushing for the passage of the bill which was rejected by the eighth National Assembly following public outcry.”

They argued that the relentless campaign to ensure the passage of the bill has fuelled speculations that they have ulterior motives.

One provision in the bill which they vehemently objected to  is that while there is popular agitation for resource control and devolution of powers to the states and local governments, the bill seeks to compel Nigerians to obtain  permit and pay tax to the federal government like oil and gas operators before they drill boreholes at the backyards.

After the bill was rejected by the eighth National Assembly, it was recently reintroduced in the ninth House of Representatives and the reintroduction led to an impeachment threat against House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom had described its reintroduction as “evil” and part of the agenda of the federal government to seize land from the 36 states of the federation.

“I want to urge Benue indigenes to rise and reject the bill because it is targeted at our ancestral heritage. In their attempt to take over our inheritance they came with Ruga and a cattle colony among others. But the people behind this plot can rest assured that Benue will resist any attempt to take over our land and water resources through any guise,” Ortom had said.

In its own reaction, PANDEF, through its spokesman, Hon. Ken Robinson, said it would continue to reject the bill, which it described as an obnoxious, draconian, imperialistic and unnecessary evil.

He said “The people of the Niger Delta region, particularly of the South-south geopolitical zone had rejected the Water Resources Bill from the beginning, and our position has not changed; it remains rejected.

“That bill is not only obnoxious but draconic and imperialistic. It is an unnecessary evil. That was why it attracted wild condemnation when it was first introduced. The eighth National Assembly heeded the voice of the people, by throwing it out. It was likewise stepped down when it was reintroduced in this ninth National Assembly in 2020, following similar denunciation by citizens

“It is, therefore, troubling that the Bill has again been introduced in the House of Representatives, more so, with less than a year to the end of the session of this National Assembly. The questions we would want the sponsors of the Bill to answer are; why the insistence on this Bill? Whose interest are they trying to satisfy?.”


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