The controversial water resources bill has been reintroduced to the House of Representatives.
The bill, sponsored by the Chairman of House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli (APC, Katsina), was read the first time on Wednesday.
The bill, which was introduced in the 8th Assembly, caused outrage then as some Nigerians interpreted the proposed law as a power grab by the federal government.
Prominent Nigerians who spoke against it included Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana (SAN) and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State.
The bill was again introduced as an executive bill and passed in 2020.
However, the decision on the bill was rescinded by the House two months after a motion was moved by Ben Mzondu (PDP, Benue).
Mr Mzondu faulted the process of reconsidering the bill, noting that it was not properly passed.
Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), expressed concern on the bill, stating that most Nigerians rejected the bill the last time. He said, “some of us are not comfortable with this bill”.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said that governors contributed in the drafting of the new bill.
“Apparently it is a new bill that all the governors of the federation both south and north participated in this bill and I want to take him by his word,” he said.
Mr Gbajabiamila urged lawmakers to talk to their respective governors on the bill.
“Talk to your governors both from the north and from the south and get their opinion on how it affects your states or your area of operation,” he said.
Mr Gbillah rejected the explanation by the speaker, stating that lawmakers are constitutionally empowered to decide on legislation, not governors.
“Whatever the governors might have agreed upon may not be acceptable to us. It is we that those powers as enshrined in the constitution to enact legislation that will be binding on this country,” he said.
The back and forth between the two continued, as Mr Gbajabiamilaa disclosed that Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, also supported the bill.
“But I am hoping that we can work in tandem with the governors on this particular issue. Like I said your governor (Samuel Ortom) was specifically mentioned as one of people that bought into it,” the speaker stated.
Mr Gbajabiamila, therefore, directed the Chairman House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata (APC, Jigawa) to ensure that all members get a copy of the bill ahead of its second reading.ⓘ
Responding to the issues, Mr Soli said the minutes of the meeting with the Nigerian Governors Forum had been attached to the bill.
“Let me assure my colleagues on my honour that the comments of the governors’ forum are attached to the bill and the comment of the attorney general which was requested by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources are attached to the bill. All attorney-generals of different states of the federation commented on the bill before they could address some of the issues that were raised on the floor.
“I will not stand here to see a particular section of this country is shortchanged by a legislation of this country. If that happens Mr Speaker, I will withdraw the bill in the interest of this country,” he said.
Following the assurance, the bill was allowed to pass.
Credit: Premium Times