Criticism Trails As Reps Move to Take Over All Surface, Underground Water Inter-State Rivers, Tributaries, Hydrological Territories

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As Diaspora groups kick against plot to control boreholes, pipe-borne water
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Experts and various Diaspora Groups have expressed grave concerns over the reintroduction of the controversial National Water Resources bill which seeks to take over all inter-state rivers, hydrological territories across the country, which scaled through Second Reading on the floor of the House of Representatives before embarking on annual recess.

The private member bill as proposed by Hon Sada Soli seeks to establish a regulatory framework for trans boundary water resources in Nigeria, provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s Inter-State surface water and groundwater resources; and for related matters, 2022.

A similar bill which was introduced in 2017, seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria, provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources and for related matters.’

The stakeholders argued that the proposed legislation contravenes the provisions of Article 47 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR), Articles 10, 20, 26 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as Article 25 International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Recall that the bill was initially introduced in the 7th and 8th Assemblies was rejected in response to public outcry on the implications of passing the proposed legislation.

The Bill which was re-introduced in the 9th Assembly via a motion to revisit the 11 bills including the controversial National Water Resources bill but was withdrawn sequel to series of protests by notable House members as well as 36 State Governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and other stakeholders across the country.

The 36 State Governors had on September 17, 2020, expressed the need for holistic review of the controversial National Water Resources Bill, 2020 which allegedly seeks to erode the powers of Subnational governments on control of water resources in the country.

The Governors also underscored the need for the review of other relevant laws including the River Basins Development Authorities Act 2004; the Natural Water Resources Act 2004; and the Nigeria Hydrological Resources Act 2004 will be reviewed by their Attorneys General and Executive Councils of States after which a common position of States will be presented to Water Resources.

Clause 2(1) of the newly reintroduced bill stipulates that the right to the use, management and control of all surface water and groundwater affecting more than one State pursuant to item 64 of the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, and as set out in the First Schedule to this Billis vested in the Government of the Federation to be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this Bill.

Clause 2(2) provides that: States may make provisions for the use, management and control of water resources occurring solely within the boundaries of the State in line with regulations and guidelines made pursuant to this Bill on policy and principles of Integrated Water Resources management.

Clause 3(1) provides that: “a person may, without a licence: take water from a water source to which the public has free access for the use of his household or for watering domestic livestock; use water for the purposes of subsistence fishing or for navigation to the extent that such use is not inconsistent with this Bill or any other existing law; where a statutory or customary right of occupancy to any land exists, take or use water without charge from the underground water source, or if abutting the bank of any watercourse, from that watercourse, for reasonable household use, watering livestock and for personal irrigation not for commercial purposes; or store and use runoff water from a roof.

In the First Schedule of the bill, the Designated Water Bodies as affecting more than one State include; all inter-state water, whether surface or underground, from time to time contained within or flowing or percolating through such sources and the tributaries and catchment areas thereof. These include; River Niger from the border between Nigeria and the Niger Republic to the outlet of the Kainji reservoir,- Sokoto Rima River from the border with the Federal Republic of Nigeria; all the tributaries of the River Niger crossing the border to the Benin Republic and Sokoto sedimentary (western) hydro-geological area.

Others are; River Niger from the outlet of the Kainji reservoir to the point of confluence of the River Niger and the Benue River, including Kaduna River with the tributaries; Gurara River; all the tributaries of the River Niger crossing the border to the Benin Republic; and the upper Niger sedimentary (Niger) hydro-geological area.; Benue River from the border between the Federal, the Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon to the point of confluence of the Benue River and the River Niger, including; Gongola River; Pai-yul River; Wase River; Shemankar River; Dep River; Mada River; all the tributaries of the Benue crossing the international border to the Republic of Cameroon, and Benue sedimentary (Benue) hydro-geological area.

Also designated water are: River Niger from the confluence thereof and of the Benue River, including the Delta of the River Niger and all water tributaries or influent thereto or diffluent therefrom, including: Anambra River; Imo River; Akwa Ibom River; and Aboine River; as well as all water courses directly or indirectly influent to the Lagoon and other littoral Lagoons and water courses from the border with the Republic of Benin to the mouth of the Forcados River, including: Oshun River; Ogun River; Shasha River; Owena River; and Ogun/Oshun sedimentary (south-western) hydrogeological area; All water rising or situated in the Federal Republic of Nigeria which are directly or indirectly influent into the Lake Chad, including the Chad sedimentary (north-eastern) hydrogeological area and Cross River from the boundary between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon and all water tributaries or influent thereto or diffluent therefrom including the Cross River sedimentary (south-eastern) hydrogeological area.

In a swift reaction to the development, the United Indigenous People of Africa (UNIPA), which is a global self-determination group for Indigenous Nationalities in the continent, has faulted the newly re-introduced Water Resources Bill, seeking to place control of all resources accrued through water on the surface or in the ground under the control of the Federal Government.

The Co-Convener of the group, Ms Jean May, in an electronic statement she sent from New York, and obtained by our correspondent, described the bill as a mockery of the country’s already quasi-federal principles, an attack on universal federalism, and an exhibition of wickedness on the part of the Nigerian government.

According to her, the bill would further weaken the States and Local Government Areas of Nigeria that have purportedly gone bankrupt due to usurpation of their functions by the Federal Government, if it becomes law. The moves by the central government to take over the control of all water banks, including its streams and all resources therein, she said, is an attempt to completely take over the assets of the already oppressed indigenous people in the country.

The statement read in part: “We have studied the Water Resources Bill and we found no sense in it. Our Country Representative in Nigeria reported that this is a facade and a complete hijack of the assets of indigenous people, especially, in the South and Middle-Belt parts of the country.

“For the sake of ordinary people, who may not understand the danger ahead, the implications of the Water Resources Bill is that Osun-Osogbo River, Erin-Ijesha Water Fall, Asejire Water and others, which are tourist sites that generate millions of naira monthly to Osun State Government will now be administered by the Central Government. Specifically, It means that the administration of the Osun-Osogbo Festival will now be determined by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Abuja.

“The Implication of the Water Resources Bill is that the administration and control of Ipole/Iloro Water Fall, Ikogosi Warms Spring, Ado-Ekiti Water Works, Ero River, Ogidigbi Stream, Iyemero Water, all in Ekiti State now belong to the Central Government of Nigeria.

“The Central Government of Nigeria already hijacked the resources of the States and Local Government Areas by pocketing 53 per cent of the entire revenue accrued to the Federation Account. Now, the same government is extending its penchant for asset grabbing by attempting to hijack, for instance, Oguta Lake from the people of Oguta in Imo State, Awhum Waterfall and Cave from the people of Amaugwe village of Awhum town in Enugu State, Enemabia Warm Spring from the people of Benue State, Agbokim Waterfalls from the government of Cross Rivers State, among others.”

She further observed that by placing the management and control of all river banks under the control of the Federal Government, the state Governments of Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Cross-Rivers can no longer collect revenue from anyone or corporate entities doing businesses at the bank of Atlantic Coastal Lines, neither can the Lagos State Waterways Agency operate its Boat Services at the Bank of Lagos Lagoon without the express approval of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Abuja.

“For the fact that the Water Resources Bill places both surface and underground water resources under the administration of the Central Government, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources now controls the boreholes in the homes of ordinary people, who have no access to pipe-borne water.”

In the same vein, the Coordinator of another Diaspora Group, called ‘IlanaUK’, Dr Olusola Oni has described the National Water Resources Bill as a continuation of the principle of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ that the British imposed on the Yoruba Nation by the Amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.

Dr Oni in a statement obtained by Tribune Online alleged that the proposed legislation contravened the provisions of Article 1 of the UN Charter and of the 1960 de-colonisation resolution of the General Assembly.

While noting that Article 47 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR) and Article 25 International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) protect the indigenous peoples’ land right against State Parties, using imperialist tactics to deprive them of their land, Dr. Oni maintained that the Incorporation of Yorubaland into Nigeria State in 1914 did not deprive the Yoruba of inherent sovereignty over their land.

Indeed, that was the basis of the regional arrangement that was ended in a bloody military insurrection in 1966. The Yoruba did not consent to the 1999 constitution, which was designed to rob Yorubaland of the benefits of our mineral resources and oil deposits.

“The frequent Fulani targeting of the Yoruba for extra-judicial killings and for terrorism is pursuant to the 1999 constitution. The Fulani will not stop until we declare an independent Yoruba Nation,” he noted.

Knocks, criticism trail Reps move to take over all surface, underground water, inter-state rivers, tributaries, hydrological territories.

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