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Water Resources Bill: Government courting controversy

Against the will and wish of Nigerian people, and in a manner that smacks of lack of respect for their feeling and sensibilities, the federal government has reintroduced the National Water Resources Bill for consideration and passage by the lower chamber of the National Assembly.

In more ways than one, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari lends itself as one that relishes going against the current, and in the process, stokes anarchy and courts controversy in a very volatile society that is ruled by ethnic and religious sentiments.

The reintroduction of the objectionable bill after it was roundly rejected and thrown out of the window by the 8th Senate means there must be a sinister motive for pushing it at all cost by the executive arm of government which is using black legs in the chamber to see it through.

The despicable Bill seeks to give the Federal Government powers to take control of lands and water resources in the country. That is not all. The Bill also allows the government control of about three kilometers radius of the water bodies, meaning that it will control both the water and the land resources.

The Bill is structured in such a way that, if passed, it will give government unfettered access to water and land resources which, ordinarily, belongs to states and local communities.

Section 13 of the Bill provides that “in implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and ground water resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.”

Section 2(1) of the Bill caps it all, saying, “all surface water and ground water, wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people,’’ which means that the affected states will become no man’s land.

These, among other reasons, explained the controversy that greeted the Bill when it was first introduced, giving the impression that it was government’s tacit way of advancing the interest of the cattle herding population in the country, known to be quarrelsome and hostile to neighbours.

We recall that the same government once introduced what it called the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) policy which was a controversial policy aimed at resolving the conflict between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and sedentary farmers in the Southern part of the country.

It is becoming, increasingly, clear to us and, indeed, to other well meaning Nigerians that the Federal Government under President Mohummadu Buhari likes to stoke anarchy and court controversy in a volatile society that is ruled by ethnic and religious sentiments.

It is unimaginable that the government of a country with a disturbing security situation could contemplate such a Bill that will separate the indigenous peoples, especially those in the South and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria, from their God-given water resources and make it a national cake which everybody and anybody have right to cut from. Such an action is always resisted.

Perhaps, government means well with the Bill but it is difficult to believe them more so with the trust deficit that defines governance in Nigeria. Because of its antecedents, every move or pronouncement the government makes is treated with suspicion.

In this particular case, the so called Executive Bill is allegedly expected to grant Fulani herdsmen and Miyeti Allah cattle breeders unfettered access to land and water resources in Southern Nigeria which can only trigger national upheaval that could lead to avoidable loss of lives and property.

Everywhere and anywhere in the world, land and water resources are owned and their exploitation controlled by states and local authorities. Nigeria is tending to be different from this grand norm because some people are pursuing parochial interest and looking at the country from a narrow prism.

The greater danger which the protagonists of this ungodly move don’t seem to consider is that, if allowed to pass, the Bill will consume states like Lagos, Rivers, Benue, Anambra, etc who have large water bodies in their domain. Such states will literally fizzle out.

In the light of the above, we join the clarion call on the National Assembly to return the Bill to the trash can where it had been before some ethnic jingoists exhumed it and are effortfully trying to foist it on the rest of us. We call on Nigerians to resist the Bill for all it stands for and urge the government to desist from promoting acts capable of dividing the country or pitching the citizens one against another.

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