The Parliament Diary


By Unini Chioma

The controversial National Water Resources Bill will be considered afresh, the House of Representatives resolved on Tuesday.

Some members opposed the procedure adopted in passing the bill on July 23, arguing that the rules were not complied with.

The controversial bill has been criticised.

Among others, it seeks to place the control of all water and its resources solely at the hands of the Federal Government.

The Federal Government said the bill is designed to effectively manage water resources, adding that it has no hidden agenda.

Ijaw communities yesterday urged their representatives to ensure that the bill is killed.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila ruled after an intense debate that the bill be withdrawn, re-gazetted and presented afresh for consideration since members had no issues with its content.

A member, Ben Mzondu, moved a motion under privileges to complain that the procedure for the bill’s passage was faulty.

Citing several sections of the House rules to back his argument, he said: “l have painstakingly searched through all the Journals of the House and cannot find where the Bill is gazetted and I stand to be challenged or corrected.”

He questioned the jurisdiction of the House to pass the bill in the manner it did, saying the proceeding was a nullity.

According to him, the main issue was about re-gazetting the bill since was initiated by the previous Assembly.

“I wish to move, relying on Order 8, Rule 8, and the above-stated rules, that the House do rescind/expunge its decision of 23rd July 2020, which adopted the National Water Resources Bill 2020 H3921 to have been read the third time from our records. I so move,” Mzondu said.

Sada Soli, who chairs the House Committee on Water Resources, insisted that members complaining about the bill were present when it was passed by the Committee of the Whole.

Besides, he said though it was not re-gazetted, clean copies were given to members.

Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, warned against abandoning the House rules.

He said: “When this bill was first presented for consideration, it was stepped down because of complaints from members that they have no copies before it was later considered after copies were made available to members.”

Kingsley Chinda enjoined the members not to make a procedural mistake.
He said: “Even if we go ahead to pass the bill and it is signed into law, the courts may set it aside because of our own error.

“We ought to re-gazette the bill. If we fail to adhere to procedure, even if Mr President assents to it, the court may set it aside.

“The bill as consolidated was considered for passage the same day it was presented to the House. This is contained in the same order paper of that day.

We should re-gazette and re-list the bill for consideration”.

Gbajabiamila said the issue in contention was fundamental, adding that Mzondu succeeded in backing his argument with the relevant provisions of the House rules.

He referred to his Infectious Diseases Bill, which he had to step down because of complaints that the House was moving too fast, adding that it is better to err on the side of caution.

He asked the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, to withdraw the bill and re-gazette it before presenting to the House for consideration.

Ijaw communities in the Niger Delta warned their representatives in the National Assembly against coming back home if they fail to kill the Bill.

The communities under the auspices of the Movement for the Survival of Ijaw Ethnic Nationalities in Niger Delta (MOSIEND), in their letter to the Niger Delta caucus members of the National Assembly, urged them to build bridges and ensure that the “obnoxious” bill was permanently laid to rest.

The September 24 letter, signed by MOSIEND National President Kennedy Tonjo West and the National Secretary, Winston Amain, told the lawmakers that passing the bill would amount to a betrayal of trust.

The letter reads: “Simply put, the bill seeks to empower the Federal Government to control all sources of water in Nigeria.

The Federal Government can permit anybody or group from any part of the country to possess any water resource without the consent of the local communities.

“This is the height of wickedness, oppression, exploitation and planned deprivation…

“This bill was brought before the 8th Assembly and due to its dire consequences, it was rejected. How it has been resurrected and resubmitted to this 9th Assembly leaves much to be desired.

“As advocates for and on behalf of the Niger Delta people and being exposed to civilised practices, we will want to resist the passage of this obnoxious bill through our representatives in the upper and the lower chambers of the National Assembly.

“As our members in the National Assembly, you should ensure that this obnoxious bill does not see the light of the day. Ensure that the bill is not secretly passed and signed in to law.

“In the event that this obnoxious bill gets passed either by hook or crook and signed into law, it will make us assume that you have not represented us adequately well and hence betrayed our trust and as such our reckoning will start with you.

“As distinguished senators and representatives, we have respect for you and we believe that you will be alert, firm, resolute and act with determination to ensure that our land, our heritage remains our pride. Otherwise, don’t you ever return home to any part of the Niger Delta land.

“We want to assure you that the people of the Niger Delta will stand by and with you and strengthen you in your bid to defend our heritage.


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