The Water Resources Bill at the National Assembly has joined the list of controversial proposed legislations generating outrage from Nigerians.
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The bill had been earlier dropped about two years ago due to public outrage but was now being reintroduced in the ninth National Assembly.
It has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
Condemning the bill, Professor Wole Soyinka said passed into law, it will hand the Nigerian president “absolute control over the nation’s entire water resources".
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has also warned the National Assembly not to pass the bill into law.
NLC president Ayuba Wabba warned the legislature against licensing “dictatorship” because of the danger the bill portends to national unity.
Also reacting, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state alleged that the federal government is colluding with the National Assembly to allow herdsmen to grab land under the guise of the water resources bill.
What is it about this bill attracting such a wide public condemnation and allegations? This piece explains some of the provisions in the bill generating the wide outrage from Nigerians.
Section 98: Licensing
Section 98 of the bill states that “the use of water shall be subject to licencing provisions.”
This simply means that anyone that wants to embark on any water project will have to get a license from a designated government agency.
Section 104: Emergency powers in case of shortage of water
The bill will empower the government to "direct a person who has a supply of water in excess of his needs for domestic purposes to reduce the amount he is permitted to abstract under the terms of any licence or general authorization."
Section 107: License may be cancelled
Section 107 says that a licence may be cancelled if the licencee “fails to make beneficial use of the water.”
Section 120: Nigerians must get a permit before drilling boreholes
Due to lack or ineffectiveness of the public water system, Many Nigerians fall back on a private water system, that is, drilling boreholes in their homes.
However, Section 120 of the proposed water law makes it compulsory for Nigerians to obtain a driller’s permit before sinking a borehole in their homes.
Section 125: Entry onto land in furtherance of duties
(2) "An authorized person' may, at any reasonable time and on production of their identity card or other instrument or certificate of designation if so required, enter a property with the necessary persons, vehicles, equipment and material in order to carry out routine inspections of the use of water or disposal of wastewater under any authorization."
Section 131: Non-compliance
(1) No person shall-
(a) use water otherwise than as permitted under this Act;
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In summary, the bill seeks to put control of water directly under the federal government and clip the wings of state and local government authorities.
The bill if passed into law will also stop individuals from making use of the water at their backyard without a permit from the federal government.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng reported that Governor Ortom threatened legal action against the federal government over the National Water Resources Bill.
Speaking on Monday, August 31, at the State House where he hosted the new leadership of Mdzough U Tiv, MUT, an umbrella body of Tiv, Governor Ortom said the bill cannot be "passed through the back door."
Ortom described the bill as wickedness, adding that the bill is an injustice to the people of Benue state and the country in its entirety.
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