Integration Summit Group-Nigeria, ISGN has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to refrain from reintroducing the Water Resources Bill 2020 earlier stepped down by the National Assembly.
A statement signed by the Convener of the organisation, Dr Chris Ekiyor noted that the greatest ill associated with the bill lies in its tendency to disenfranchise Nigerians from ancestral ownership of their water rights and hand it over to a set of federal government technocrats.
“In its highlights, the National Water Resources Bill empowers the Minister of Water Resources to formulate water resources management strategy to guide integrated planning, management, development, use and conservation of the nation’s water resources and provide guidance for the formulation of hydrological area resources strategies under Section 94 of the bill.
“As a pan-Nigeria group committed to peace, unity and peaceful co-existence of all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, political and religious affiliations, we are worried that the federal government, instead of collaborating with states and local governments to address lack of water supply in the country, have designed the bill to further commercialize access to water by the people, wherein the Federal Government will take over water resources from the states, license the supply and commercialize the use of water.
“It is rather unfortunate from the provisions of the Water Resources Bill 2020, that the sponsors are yet to come to terms with the relevant cases decided by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, which have upheld the exclusive powers of state governments over land use, physical planning and inland waterways in the coastal states.
“ISGN is of the view that the support given to the bill before it was withdrawn was fuelled not by the burning desire for the public good but for sectional gains.
“This has also necessitated the question as to how the nation can redistribute lands from land-rich states to land-poor states since the bill could conceivably make inter-basin transfers of water to be undertaken by the federal government without consent from or even consultation from indigenous communities.
“As it stands, the National Water Resources Bill 2020 can be said to have justified the fears by concerned Nigerians that the federal government by this move to acquire more power may not be interested in the devolution of power as being demanded by Nigerians and the quest for restructuring of the nation.
“The whole argument becomes even more uncertain from the fact that some of these items will be better handled if left in the hands of the state, local government or private owners.
“In particular, it is disheartening to note that a government which has failed to discharge its responsibilities of supplying water will turn round to give approval and charge people for digging boreholes.
“Residents of coastal communities who hitherto have been making use of water in their domain will now be charged for fetching water for personal use in their community stream.
“This by far, shows that the bill is out to rob many people of their means of livelihood, hence the widespread condemnation that it attracted when it was reintroduced.
“Based on the foregoing, we hereby call on the federal government to ensure that the worries expressed by residents of the regions are not swept under the carpet as there are visible challenges arising from its nature, impact and strategy. The bill should be discarded and abolished obviously because of its anti-people tendencies”, he stated.