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Controversial water resources bill is toxic, anti-people – CSOs

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… Demand fresh bill

CIVIL society organisation (CSOs) and concerned stakeholders in the water sector have described as toxic and anti-people, the proposed National Water Resources Bill which is being re-introduced in the National Assembly (NASS).

Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) said it should be totally discarded.

They said if passed, it could lead to privatising the water sector, thus worsening an already poor access to potable water.

Speaking during a national town hall meeting on the bill held in Abuja,  Executive Director of CAPPA Akinbode Oluwafemi said on September 3, 2020, the group wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari explaining concerns over the bill and the need for a new submission that would truly speak to water needs of Nigerians.

Similar concerns, he noted, were shared by the Afenifere Yoruba Socio-Political group, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYF), the Southern and Middle Belt Forum and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), including the Nobel Laurette Professor Wole Soyinka asking that the bill be jettisoned.

He said CAPPA earlier commissioned experts to do a clause-by-clause analysis of the bill to expose “the booby traps deliberately inserted to ensure it delivers privatization to Nigerians. And the group also exposed how the Bill is antithetical to the attainment of the Human Right to Water.”

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However, he queried why sponsors of the bill were trying to reintroduce it despite that it was voted against last year at the National Assembly.

Soyinka, particularly, disclosed that the nation would be doomed if the controversial bill scaled through the parliament.

Access to water is a human right – AUPCTRE

The AUPCTRE National President Benjamin Anthony frowned at the rationale behind the Federal Ministry of Water Resources’ insistence on sponsoring the bill.

Describing water as a human right, he shared a similar position that the bill would drive the nation into water privatisation

“What Nigerians disagreed with should not be forced to their throat. The water resources bill will drive us to privatisation. So, what is life if we cannot speak out that our rights must be given to us.”

The keynote speaker, Prof. Sofiri Joab-Peterside, in his lecture themed, Resource Management Dialogue within a Federal State Versus National Water Bill, disclosed that Nigerians were already responsible for providing some basic needs such as housing and electricity, saying that asking the public to get a license to use water had remained a major concern.

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The privatised electricity sector, he emphasised, failed most Nigerians as there was no significant improvement.

He said, contrary to a provision of the proposed bill, federal legislation would not authorise payments for someone interested in drilling boreholes in states, except the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

He recalled the position of the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who also argued the bill was against the Land Use Act, saying that it was an indirect means of land grabbing to grant the pastoralists free access to river basins.

On July 15, at the commissioning of the Zobe Regional Water Supply Scheme in Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State, Buhari asked the NASS to quickly pass the controversial bill.

On November 3, 2017, the bill was introduced to the last Senate and it passed the second reading on November 22, 2017.

It was introduced to the House of Representatives on May 4, 2017, and scaled through both the second and third reading on July 6 and December 19, respectively. The Senate eventually struck out the bill but efforts are being made to re-present it to the federal lawmakers.

The House of Reps, under the leadership of Femi Gbajabiamila, had directed the bill should be published in the House gazette for reconsideration. He gave the directive after a rowdy session on September 30.

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The Minister of Water Resources Sulaiman Adamu also insisted on the water bill. He said it would attract private sector investment and drive efficiency in the 37 water resources agencies which he described as inefficient.

 

Demand for people-driven water bill

Meanwhile, the groups demanded that the new water bill should be ‘community inspired’ and reflect consultations with Nigerians from the initial stages through the entire process at the National Assembly.

They asked the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to “respect genuine wishes of the people expressed through the media and other public channels and stop its promotion of the toxic National Water Bill.”

“The Federal Government should embrace public sector solutions in addressing the water challenges of Nigeria including the Public-Public-Partnership model and National Water Trust Fund which have been tested and found effective in other climes.

“Privatisation, including the PPP model of water privatisation has been proven to be a false solution worldwide that will only enrich a few and burden our people with endless debts and increase in poverty.

“Need for comprehensive data on both water infrastructure investment and access to aid planning for the now and the future.

“Government at all levels should embrace democratic decision-making in addressing water shortages. Women and vulnerable groups should also be accorded priority in plans to guarantee access.”

They vowed to remain resolute in their demands for collective good of all Nigerians. Water infrastructure, they stressed, should be managed by the government and not privatised.

“The Nigerian government must invest in public infrastructure and embrace democratic, participatory, and transparent management of water investments that fulfill the human right to water through the public sector. On our part, we will continue grassroots and legislative engagements to ensure that the will of the people is respected.”

Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Email address: [email protected] Twitter handle: @OluAdanikin

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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