Don’t reintroduce water Resources Bill, Benue warns FG
By Kayode Obembe
The Benue State Government has warned the Federal Government not to reintroduce the Water Resources Bill
In a statement this week signed by Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the state Governor, Mr Samuel Ortum said the Benue State Government said the controversial National Water Resources Bill has been reintroduced to the House of Representatives by the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli from Katsina State.
Leaders of indigenous communities have been protesting against the introduction of the bill seen as an attempt to take away their livelihood and subvert the rights of indigenous peoples over their rich land Resource.
The Benue State Government said it was not the first or even the second time that the bill was brought before the National Assembly.
It accused the Muhammadu Buhari administration of moving to hijack all water resources in Nigeria using the instrumentality of the same.
The President sent the proposed law to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill on April 11, 2017.
The bill sparked outrage as many Nigerians rightly interpreted the proposed law as a plot to grab the waterways and hand same to Fulani pastoralists.
The Middle Belt state said apparently sensing the spontaneous anger that greeted the bill, the Presidency resorted to using the National Assembly members from Katsina State to execute the draconian mission.
On Tuesday, 7 July 2020, the Bill was reintroduced into the 9th Assembly by Hon Sada Soli.
It was re-considered on 23 July 2020 pursuant to Order Twelve (12), Rule 18 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, but eventually thrown out.
“It is suspicious that only members from the President’s home state of Katsina have continued to introduce the Water Bill before the National Assembly when almost every other member thinks differently.
The above background is important to enable Nigerians see the trajectory of the agenda to deprive the indigenous people of their God-given lands and water resources” Ortum said.
He said the bill which seeks to bring all water sources (surface and underground), as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies is anti-federalism and negates the right of Nigerians to their ancestral resources.
“The bill, in addition to its provisions which are grossly at variance with the Land Use Act, is a disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country. The bill is another version of ruga and cattle colonies which objective is to create grazing areas in the 36 states of the federation for herders and their livestock.”
The Benue State Government said “We fault the submission of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila on the day the bill was reintroduced, that all Governors contributed in drafting of the new bill. We find it unconscionable, the Speaker’s mention of Governor Samuel Ortom as one of those who endorsed the bill. Governor Ortom’s stand against cattle colonies, ruga and the water resources bill has been consistent, and he won’t shift his position now! We wonder what the interest of the Honourable Speaker in the said bill is, that he wants to draft every Governor into endorsing the proposed legislation.”
It noted that coming at a time when Nigerians are clamouring for proper federalism which entails devolution of powers to states and local governments, the introduction of a Water Resources Bill by the Buhari administration to deprive the people of their water resources is not only unfortunate but also smacks of insensitivity.
“Initiators of the obnoxious National Water Resources Bill are not only insensate but have also shown crass abhorrence of Nigeria’s unity as well as the current mood of the nation when people are slaughtered in their homes and even the clergy are not spared by terrorists. Shouldn’t the Presidency be more concerned about proffering a lasting solution to the orgy of killings across the country? ”
Ortum said the Federal Government doesn’t seem to be bothered that Nigeria is bleeding from the torture inflicted on the people by rapacious herdsmen who are bent on expropriating farmlands. All that matters to the present administration is to turn parts of this country to safe havens for the herders and their animals.
He noted that hundreds of people have been killed while homes and property worth billions have been destroyed.
“Sadly, all that Nigerians get to hear from their leader is to “learn to live with their countrymen”. Whose countrymen? Those killer herdsmen?
We want to alert Nigerians again that if the National Water Resources Bill is passed into law, the rights of citizens over fresh water resources – ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and springs will be taken away with impunity.”
He said the bill will deny states and local government authorities as well as individuals the right to make use of the water in their backyard, until they get permission from Abuja.
“The Federal Government’s insistence to take over the control of water resources across the country is tantamount to the suppression and enslavement of indigenous people of this country.
“We state unequivocally that Benue will not be part of the National Water Resources Bill! Our state should therefore be counted out of any discussion that pertains to the bill.”
Ortum called on other State Governments to rise and resist the land and water grabbing bill currently before the National Assembly.
“This is an opportunity for all patriots to stand to be counted as those who resisted modern day slavery.
We equally call on members of the National Assembly to once more, act as true representatives of the people, for the sake of posterity and throw away the water bill. They should remember that the destiny of over 200 million Nigerians lies in their hands.”