• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Water resources bill and the rest of us

Water resources bill and the rest of us

World Water Day held on 22nd March every year as a means of focusing attempt on the importance of fresh water and advocating for sustainable management of fresh resources reminds us of the Water Resources Bill being pushed by Buhari Administration for passage by the national assembly.

However, unlike World Water Day which is about taking action to tackle the global water crises in support of Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG)6 water and sanitation for all by 2030, the Water Resources Bill seeks to control water really sources and by extension land for the benefit of a section of the country that is into the meat business.

It is no longer a secret that some people in government are using water resources bill to advance the fortune of a section of the country who are in the cattle business by grabbing grazing land by legislation through the back door. In particular, the people pushing for the bill to be passed into law with executive support are desperate because they are running out of time when their leader will vacate office and the opportunity to dominate indigenous by this tiny nonindigenous Nigerians.

First of all, they started by threatening indigenous peoples to surrender their land or be killed. Then the cattle colony, RUGA, then the National Life stock Production Plan, then Water Resources Bill, then an attempt to amend the land use act all in an effort to use the instrument of government to acquire land for meat entrepreneurs.

If one should ask, why is Buhari Administration hell-bent on grabbing land for meat entrepreneurs? Why not land for cocoa farmers, spare part dealers, poultry farmers, and thousands of other entrepreneurs not the least land for mass housing for homeless people scattered all over the country?

The reason is simple. The man at the helm of affairs is reported to be the grand patron of the meat entrepreneurs. In other words, he is itching to create an unsurpassable advantage for his kinsmen who are not indigenous people of Nigeria. If they were indigenous people of Nigeria, they would have had ancestral land to rear their cattle for meat, milk, and other commercial by-products and we could not have been in this mess where grabbing land for cattle rearing is threatening the very existence of the Nigerian nation.

It is therefore not surprising that many sociocultural groups, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and others in Middle Belt Forum and South-South Nigeria vehemently oppose that bill. Not left out are civil society organizations some of who staged demonstrations in front of National Assembly premises.

Unfortunately, we do not seem to have a government or national assembly members that listen or consult their constituency for input when sensitive issues with far-reaching consequences like the water resources bill are under legislative consideration.

The legislators seem to be advancing their own personal interest or in the case of the water resources bill, federal government interest and it ought not to be so.

Elsewhere in the world, it has been said that in the 21st century, fresh water will be the gold of the future, being one of the most valuable and scarce resources. In a place like the USA, the amount of water that is used to raise one single steer is enough to float an American destroyer according to Anthony Robbins in his book,” Awaken The Giant In You (2003) page 409. Even in Nigeria, those in the bottled and sachet water business are busy, smiling to their banks due to the lack of potable water in the country.

The futility of the water resources bill is that in Nigeria, cattle rearing contributes next to nothing in tax revenues to Federal Government to justify the zeal in pushing for speedy passage of the bill whereas huge tax breaks have been given to farmers in South American countries as an incentive to ranchers to clear the grazing land for cattle to be exported as beef to the United States and other parts of the world. In that clime, the USA imports 10 percent of its beef from Central and South America.

In the case of Nigeria, the meat entrepreneurs are traders in cattle, importing cattle from Niger, Chad, and other ECOWAS countries for resale in Nigeria with a large population and purchasing power. If one may ask, how much does cattle trade contribute to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) to justify the persistence of the executive arm of government in passing the water resources bill as it is presently crafted?

Rather, the irresponsible manner in which the cattle trade is conducted in Nigeria has led to political instability and interethnic fatal conflicts . Worse still, it is threatening Nigeria with famine with so-called Herder-Farmers clash and with the government doing nothing apparently and dare I say creating the belief that they are complicit in the instability which is very unfortunate.

Rather than vigorously pursuing the option of cattle ranch for those interested in the cattle business, which is the global practice in the modern world, the government is pushing water resources bill to sustain nomadism and archaic living in the forest for pastures. The water resources bill as it is presently crafted incorporates land acquisitions which is a proactive step to acquire grazing land by the federal government and bypass the state governor who is the custodian of state land.

The water resources bill provides access to water and water resources to be through licensing. Why should the government impose licenses on citizens that want access to underground water for domestic use through the drilling of boreholes or fishermen to obtain licenses before they can fish in their ancestral waterways? Is it no longer a free world? The way the Buhari-led Federal Government is going crazy about tax revenues, one day we will wake up to be paying tax on the air we breathe.

Read also: NBC tasks incoming govt on effective water management

Man was born free but we are everywhere in chains through an institution called government. There is a limit to legislation for good governance in an orderly society. In the instant case, the government is inching towards slavery and that is actually what the water resources bill will achieve if passed into law. Government must be very careful before Nigeria is legislated out of existence.

Muhammadu Buhari administration must get it clear that Nigerians, from feelers in the polity, will rather go their separate ways than accept the water resources bill if passed into law. What is giving the government the courage to pass the obnoxious water resources bill into law is the section of the constitution that transferred sovereignty which rightly belongs to the people to the government. That is why the government is paying no attention to calls for jettisoning the water resources bill by prominent Nigerians, Non-governmental organizations, sociocultural organizations, etc.

Beyond that, the element of the bill that empowers Federal Government to acquire land is patently unconstitutional because it is in conflict with the provisions of the land use act which vests land in the country to local and state governments. The federal government should not put itself in a position to be seen as if is overriding the constitution just to give an advantage to a section of the country. The Buhari-led federal government should do the right thing by withdrawing the Water Resources Bill from the national assembly.