Global Nigerian group asks National Assembly to drop Water Resources Bill
By Samuel Ogunsona
The National Assembly has been asked to jettison the proposed Water Resources Bill in the interest of the peace, security and wellbeing of Nigerians. In a statement on Friday, Fatherland, a group of Nigerian professionals at home and abroad said the proposed bill poses potential threats to the livelihood of indigenous communities in Nigeria.
The group which is based in the United Kingdom but with members spread across five continents, pointing to the long running and ongoing killings in Southern Kaduna, said the act if passed into law may spur violent conflict between forest dependent peoples in Nigeria and pastoralists who may be empowered by the law to imagine unimpeded access to traditional water resources including sacred stream and groves that sustain indigenous peoples’ cosmic and spiritual livelihood.
Fatherland in a statement made available to Irohinoodua said for many traditional communities, water resources are not only linked to their spiritual survival but also to biodiversity and the relationship between plants, animals and the health of indigenous peoples adding that any attempt to take away control of these resources is akin to usurpation of the right to life.
“We share the concerns of well-meaning Nigerian citizens about the inauspicious timing of the National Water Resources Bill and the desperate and underhand measures being deployed to push it through, in spite of serious objections being raised by citizen groups across the country. This is against the backdrop of the palpable failure of the Nigerian government to address the crisis in Southern Kaduna the underlying cause of which is the communal sharing of access to surface water and grazing lands for livestock”, the group said in a statement signed by the group’s leader, Mr Dele Ogun.
It added that the Act further fuel public anger by the fact that Federal Government under General Mohammadu Buhari has established a notoriety for sectarianism and nepotism, exemplified by its flagrant disregard for the principle of equity in key federal appointments.
Fatherland condemns sections of the bill that says that all surface water and ground water, wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people. (section 2(1)) and that the right to use, manage and control all surface water and groundwater affecting more than one state, together with the beds and banks thereof, is vested in the Government of the Federation as contained in 2(3) and that the use of water be subjected to licensing.
Section 2(4) of the Act also says the Federal Government is the public trustee of the nations water resources. (section 2(4) and that in the event of an actual or anticipated exceptional shortage of water in Section 102, in an area it gives power for a state of emergency to be declared in that area and for water resources in other areas to be diverted to meet the crisis. Fatherland said throughout the world, the economic value of water, the growing demand for its use and the need to conserve it and to manage floods, desertification, soil erosion and water pollution; and that the United Nations has recognised the right to water and sanitation as a human right, notes that towards similar ends, in England there is the Water Resources Act (1991) and in Europe there is the European Union Water Framework Directive (2000) but that such acts in Europe are driven by community ownership.
Fatherland said there is no precedent for the Nigerian version in either the English Water Resources Act (1991) or in the European Union Water Framework Directive (2000): The former takes care to respect the reality of the constitutional separation between the waters of Scotland and the waters of England & Wales. In the same vein, the EU Directive limits itself to establishing a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater, leaving it to member states to draw up their own measures to meet the set objectives. Ogun said Fatherland is concerned that the approach taken towards the same end in the proposed National Water Resources Bill is wrong and offends the principle of federation upon which Nigeria is supposed to be governed. Fatherland said it finds that the vesting of the right to use, manage and control inter-state waters together with the beds and banks thereof in the Federal Government is unnecessary and violates the fundamental principle of a federal republic.
The group said it is disappointed that the European Union has not shown sufficient understanding of the political history and reality of Nigeria in providing support for this Bill.
“In its current form, the draft bill offends the principle of federation and subsidiarity in a way that EU member states will not themselves countenance for their affairs”, the group said.