Despite its rejection by many Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari has once again, asked for quick passage of the National Water Resources Bill, which seeks to cede control of the country’s water bodies and shores to the federal government.
The bill which was first introduced by the president in 2017, was opposed by many and it was dropped by the eight senate.
However, Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, moved a motion on July 23, 2020, calling for the reopening of 11 bills, including the water resources bill, not passed by the eighth Assembly.
Fulata had prayed that the bills be withdrawn from the committees they were referred to and considered by the Committee of the Whole, as the panels had failed to meet their deadlines. The motion was unanimously adopted. And an interview on September 7, Fulata described the passage of the bill as a done deal, saying the process would not be reversed.
When the public got wind of it, many called for its withdrawal, with Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom describing it as “evil bill,” while vowing to lead protest against it.
When the matter eventually came up on the floor of the house on Tuesday September 29, 2020, members of the House from the core North and their counterparts from the South and North Central engaged in a shouting match,
Members of the House, mostly from the South had raised various legal and procedural issues on the bill, arguing that it be withdrawn a properly gazetted for debate.
But their argument was opposed by members from the North who insisted that passage of the bill was a done deal and could not be reversed.
The clash began when a member from Benue State, Mr Bem Mzondu, raised a point of order, under Order 6 Rule 1(2) and (3), alleging that his legislative privilege was breached as the bill did not follow the due process and that a copy was not made available to him.
Ruling on the matter, Gbajabiamila pointed out that matters of privilege were not meant to be debated, but he allowed comments due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The Speaker had recalled how accelerated passage of the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill was met either stiff resistance by members of the public, forcing the House to reverse the process and subject it to a public hearing.
On Thursday, while speaking at a ceremony for the commissioning of the Zobe Regional Water Supply Scheme in Katsina State, President Buhari again called for the immediate passage of the bill.
The President also called on state governments to build stronger partnerships with Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to provide infrastructure that will meet the growing needs of Nigerians, while urging the National Assembly to pass the National Water Resources Bill.
Buhari said the Zobe Regional Water Supply Scheme was initiated by a previous administration in 1992, and the Federal Government had to work in collaboration with the state to ensure completion.
According to him, “I am particularly delighted to be physically here today for the commissioning ceremony which has been on hold for over one year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“As you all know, the implementation of this very important project that commenced in 1992 suffered neglects under past administrations primarily due to lack of attention that resulted in poor funding and ultimate abandonment.
“It is therefore gratifying to note the positive efforts made by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to salvage the project leading to its completion and eventual commissioning today.
“I have also noted the effective collaboration between the Ministry and Katsina State Government for execution of different components of the project as enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding entered into by both parties way back in October 2017 when the project was resuscitated”
President Buhari enjoined other sectors to emulate the good practice of federal and state governments’ partnership to accelerate infrastructure development.
He said the administration will work towards ensuring that all Nigerians, irrespective of location in the country, have access to adequate potable water supply and sanitation facilities as enshrined in the SDG target.
“However, for this national aspiration to be realized, we need to mobilize funds from all sources including the private sector. This is where the need for quick passage of the National Water Resources Bill that made provision for the National WASH Fund, as well as regulatory environment for private sector involvement in the sector, become relevant.
“I therefore call on the National Assembly to give attention to the Bill towards its passage into law as soon as possible,” he added.
The President noted that from the inception of the administration there had been a serious commitment to the development of the water sector through various efforts.
“Approval of the National Water Resources Policy by the Federal Executive Council in September 2016; Approval of a 15-year Roadmap developed by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in 2016; Approval and Launching of Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Program in November 2016; Approval of the National WASH Action Plan for the revitalization of the sector and declaration of a “State of Emergency” on the sector in November 2018 and Launching of the “Clean Nigeria Campaign” in 2019 to make Nigeria Open Defecation Free by 2025.”
He said Executive Order Number 9 was signed in support of the Clean Nigeria Campaign Implementation and improved funding of the sector from special sources.\
According to President Buhari, “the transformation being witnessed in the sector under the above listed efforts is highly commendable. I enjoin the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to continue the good work towards meeting our national aspirations as well as meeting the targets for water supply and sanitation under the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
He urged the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, who signed an agreement ceremony to take over the project from the Federal Government, and community leaders to operate the facility efficiently, and jealously guard against vandalization.
In his remarks, the Kastina State Governor said the Federal Government had shown strong commitment to the development of communities, pointing out that the Zobe Regional Water scheme will address a major concern by supplying water for households, businesses and farms.
He said the project had to be separated into two phases in 2016 to enable completion, noting that by 2018 the first phase had been completed to provide more than 50 million litres of water to some communities in the state.
The governor called for more partnership to develop the state, adding that the government will keep providing the enabling environment.
Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Hussein Adamu, said 106 water projects were left uncompleted by various administrations, and the Federal Government would keep working hard to ensure that Nigerians get adequate supply of water.
He said the Zobe multi-purpose dam will provide the needed water that will be treated to meet acceptable national and global standards.