HOUSE of Representatives member, Mark Gbillah, representing Gwer East/Gwer West in the Federal Constituency of Benue State, recent cry on TYC in an interview over the re-introduction of the National Water Resources Bill in the lower Chambers of the National Assembly on Wednesday, June 30, 2022 did not come as a surprise.
We would recall that this same obnoxious and toxic bill was presented and rejected wholesale by the House during Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s tenure.
Gbillah’s grouse, like most others in the past, is that the bill is a ploy by the Federal Government to get land for domination and control. He posited that the aspect that is controversial and completely unacceptable to the people of Benue State, and by extension, the riverine communities across the country, is the fact that the initial act of the bill sought to cede land along states and waterways across the country about three kilometres inland, to the Federal Government.
Agreed that the Federal Government would be involved in monitoring and development in rivers across waterways that traverse several states, particularly littoral states, to cede lands within their territories, in any way, is to cut their nose to spite their face. Perhaps, we need to reflect on the upsurge of Fulani invasions of these communities, bearing in mind recent happenings in this regard in Ondo State and other states in the country, notably Borno, Zamfara, Plateau, Kaduna, etc. To acquiesce to this invasion is like courting trouble and igniting flames of insecurity, arson and bloodshed in hitherto peaceful and secure environments.
The re-packaged “National Water Bill” is yet another route to introduce RUGA, Rural Grazing Area policy, the widely rejected human settlement policy of the Federal Government, steeped in distrust and a call to armed conflicts and a sure way to increased refugee and IDP menace in the country. It is advisable, therefore, that the Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government should, in conjunction with advocates of this ill-conceived Water Resources Bill, withdraw it forthwith to avoid the evil wind that is likely to blow across the country by reason of its continued hearing and possible passage in the House of Representatives.
That, the bill seeks to empower the Federal Government to take over water resources from states, licence the supply and commercialise the use of surface and underground waters, is an affront to the riverine states in the country. The consequences are better imagined than experienced. It is in the light of these reasons and many more, that the House of Representatives should, as a matter of national urgency, reject this evil water resources bill meant to divide the nation and tear it apart. The Federal Government defence that the bill sought, among other things, to provide equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of water resources in the country, hold no ground. It is a defenceless defence, shrouded in hypocrisy and lies. Lies of a government that has clearly shown itself as incapable and devoid of best practices in governance.
Instead of a self-seeking bill such as this, why does the APC-led government not address matters like the obnoxious petroleum and unjust Land Use Acts, archaic Colonial Acts smuggled into our statutes books, uneven distribution of local government councils in the country, the bloated population census figures that favour a section of the country, and other such laws that have continued to strangulate the smooth running of a federal system of government in a democratic dispensation.
Take, for instance, the current polling units distribution in the country zone by zone published recently and widely circulated both in the mainstream and social media platforms. The North-West is apportioned 41,671; the North-East, 24,006; North- Central, 27,514; South-West, 34,898; South-East, 21,631; and the South-South, 27,126. The total number of polling units in the country now stands at 176,846. Out of this number, the three Northern geo-political zones have 93,191 polling units, while the three Southern geo-political zones are apportioned 83,655 polling units. All these figures need to be interrogated constitutionally for the equity and justice.
There is also the naked abuse of the federal character principle in the allocation of political and civil service appointments. Also of note is the lopsided allocation of oil blocs, an affront to oil-bearing communities. The list is endless. The purveyors of this anti-people National Water Resources Bill should be told in unmistakable terms that the riverine communities in the country depend mainly on waterways to generate both the sources of their livelihood and revenue generation, particularly the peasants. The imposition, therefore, of exclusivity of control and management rights on our waterways to the Federal Government and her agencies will further impoverish these riverine communities and the states. While not unmindful of the constitutional provisions as to the powers of the Federal Government vide the Exclusive Legislative List to preside over this matter listed therein in Sections 2 (1) and 13 (2) of the amended 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which legal luminaries, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria and critical stakeholders have dubbed as fraudulent and anti-Nigeria and Nigerians, a listening and totally overwhelmed APC government should do the needful by instructing their vendable commodities in the lower Chambers to withdraw this very offensive water resources bill.
Perhaps it is instructive to warn and to further emphasis on the Apapa-based Vanguard comment of Tuesday, July 5, 2023 that the sponsors of this bill should withdraw it forthwith; for it portends danger to the peace and security of the Nigerian State. A State in which the Vanguard aptly described as already “gravely challenged security-wise”. Therefore, any attempt to pass this toxic Water Resources Bill will only accentuate monumental civil crisis better contemplated than experienced.
B. Ekiye, publisher of EnvironmentWatch, wrote from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State