NIGERIA’S federal government has shelved plans to introduce a National Water Resources Bill that will take the country’s river basins away from state governments following widespread opposition to the move across the country.
Yesterday, members of the House of Representatives clashed over the controversial National Water Resources Bill. Members of the House, mostly from the southern part of the country and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), raised various legal and procedural issues on the bill.
Efforts by their northern colleagues to save the bill proved abortive as arguments by the PDP members and other opponents of the bill forced the speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, to order its withdrawal and reintroduction. He said the controversial bill should be properly gazetted according to the rules of the House.
Hon Ben Mzondu of Benue State, raised a point of order, under Order 6 Rule 1(2) and (3), alleging that his legislative privilege was breached as the bill did not follow the due process and that a copy was not made available to him. On July 23, 2020, Hon Abubakar Fulata, the chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, had moved a motion on July 23, 2020, calling for the reopening of 11 bills, including the water resources bill, not passed by the previous Assembly.
In his motion Hon Fulata had prayed that the bills be withdrawn from the committees they were referred to and considered by the committee of the whole, as the panels had failed to meet their deadlines. In an interview on September 7, Hon Fulata described the passage of the bill as a done deal, saying the process would not be reversed and his motion was unanimously adopted.
Hon Fulata said: “The bill can’t be stepped down because the House has passed it already. The lawmakers that are saying that they will step it down or that it was introduced illegally is because, may be, they were not there on the floor of the House when the members were given the opportunity to look at the bill not once or twice. Remember it was passed by the eighth Assembly.”
In 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari had presented the controversial bill to the National Assembly. This proposed law seeks to transfer the control of water resources from the states to the federal government.