We thought that General Muhammadu Buhari came to check corruption and insecurity, run an all-inclusive government, weld Nigerians, grow the economy and set the pace in making life better for all. Anyone could have gauged that he was determined to redeem the country when he, persistently, sought to be President four times. But the converse has turned out to be true! Instead, he is apparently bent on taking whatever remains, as their heritage, away from the people.
We are concerned because it is the case, all over the world, that the collapse of a nation starts with the stripping of citizens’ natural freedom, resources and dignity, which truncates their destiny and initially sets them against one another(as they slave for individual attention and limited access to what really belongs to them)When they, eventually, come to their senses, the inevitable revolt that follows ends in the overthrow of their oppressors or in the disintegration of the nation. It was the case in France, Italy, the Soviet Union, Spain, the United States of America and, more recently, in some North African countries, among many others! Nigeria is far gone on that road to perdition. And there is always a yield point.
General Buhari’s government willfully breaches the fundamental right to peaceful protest; the latest incident being the shooting at youths peacefully protesting Police brutality, in particular and bad governance, in general, in the night of October 20, 2020- not to mention the regular shooting of members of the non-violent Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB)- by armed forces of the state, for a few examples.
There is also the lingering Social Media Bill, the NGO Bill and the new Companies and Allied Matters Act (with sections which are considered hostile to freedom of religion) Once this remaining frontier of freedom and independence is captured, Nigeria would descend into full-blown dictatorship! This is in addition to the Federal Government taking overthe control of mineral resources from federating units, since 1966, followed by lopsided creation of states and local governments and the obnoxious quota system – all heavily loaded against the destiny of some citizens.
The last straw that will break the camel’s back is the Water Resources Bill which has, persistently, resurfaced in the National Assembly. Land and water are fundamental natural resources and have been the principal source of feud between families, communities and nations, from time immemorial.
The bill comes under the pretext of better management of scarce water resources for which there would be a national commission. Once it is passed and signed into law, all ground water, as well as all interstate rivers and streams, along with the land area stretching into 10 kilometres from both banks, will be taken over by the Federal Government! You would then need a licence to explore the river or drill for water.
Given the record of unkept promises, nepotism and bizarre commitment to the resettlement of both indigenous and immigrant millitant herdsmen in greener vegetation, it is easy to guess who will dominate the water commission, where the law would be most applied, who will get the licences and who will populate the annexed river valleys and ancestral lands – at the expense of native farmers and fishermen – notwithstanding the pious letters of the bill. There is a great trust deficit for the Federal Government.
Furthermore, what would be the fate of residents of Southern states under the water resources law? The whole of the South-East is smaller,on land, than Niger State (or any typical Northern state, for that matter) for example. What would happen to their culture, agriculture, housing and transportation, for example?
Also, going by precedent, the Federal Government has never been a good manager of resources – human or material. Among others, it took over oil and gas resources, since 1966 and made a mess of it, to the extent that a major oil exporting country spends trillions importing all manner of refined petroleum products while the refineries remain huge loss centres. It neither put timely preventive measures in placen or did anything tangible against the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta arising from the exploration and production of the crude oil the country feeds on. The production cost invoiced by the joint venture companies would be the highest of any country where they operate, due to its rascality.
The Federal Government took over flourishing universities and other institutions from the regions and made a mess of them, too. It did the same to power generation and transmission formerly run efficiently by the regions. It is the same story everywhere you turn.
The water resources law cannot have a different outcome as we do not see any positive difference this government has made to Nigerians. The same government that is passionate about water resources could not even motivate the provision of potable water to communities by states and corporate bodies, nor provide any robust answer for the oil spill, flood, erosion, landslides and other disasters (mostly, down sides of the same water and oil resources it covets) which have been ravaging communities and farms around the country. Like predecessors, it is only interested in controlling the power and the money in them! Things are even getting so bad that, from October 8 to 20, 2020, the youths were in the streets, all over the country, protesting brutality and bad governance.
The water resources bill also confirms the negative disposition of those in power towards the clamour by most Nigerians for restructuring and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the states, which the All Progressives Congress equally offered in the campaigns for the 2015 general election. By accelerating in the opposite direction of dispossessing them, instead, as exemplified by the water bill, it means that the offer was made to swindle voters which amplifies the trust deficit.
Therefore, it is, by all accounts, a reasonable speculation that the resultant law will be of no benefit to the majority of Nigerians but is, instead, designed to take away ancestral lands (the target being the rain forest regions of the South) for the resettlement of indigenous and migrant Fulani from all over the Sahel. In the long-run, those settlements will metamorphose into militant colonies, electoral constituencies and emirates, all around the country, which has been the case all over the Middle-Belt.
It might not be General Buhari who initiated the bill, but we urge him to have it withdrawn, in demonstration of good faith, while the people in general and legislators, in particular, should persist in reading between the lines to block such weird bills and, thereby, the full-blown dictatorship and chaos which would be the aftermath.