By Ahuraka Isah and Solomon Ayado, Abuja
The federal government yesterday insisted that it was entrusted with power of control and management of rivers in the country.
This is just as it is making fresh move to see to the passage of the National Water Resources Bill 2018, after it was stepped down on the floor of the Senate last month at the third reading stage.
The Bill, which came by way of Executive Bill, generated a crisis crisis on the floor of the Senate on May 24 this year following the contentious provisions seeking, amongst others, the federal government’s exclusive control and management of rivers and lakes in the country.
The Bill also seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria, just as it is to provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface and ground water resources and for related matters.
However, the presidency, through the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, at a press briefing yesterday, said the intent of the bill was misunderstood by lawmakers who kicked against it at the last stage of consideration, with some Nigerians making negative comments on it.
“The National Water Resources Bill 2018 which was forwarded to the National Assembly in 2016 as an executive bill seeks to bring about conglomeration , amalgamation and consolidation of all the existing laws on control and management of water flowing from one state to the other “
The intent of the bill, he added, is to make Nigerian waterways practice in tandem with global best practices.
He explained further that the bill does not intend to confer any new power on the federal government as regards management and control of waterways in the country, but to harmonize all the laws and Acts into one document.
“Prior to the National Water Resources bill, various extant laws, like the Water Act of 1993, National Water Resource Institute Act of 1985, River Basin Development Authority Act of 1986 and Nigeria Hydrological Act Services Agencies Establishment Act of 2010, had already in one way or the other given the right of control and management of rivers to the federal government as constitutionally provided for by item 64 of the exclusive legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended”, he said .
The constitutional provision, according to him, states, “The right to the use, management and control of all surface water and ground water affecting more than one state, pursuant to item 64 of the exclusive legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended , and as set out in the first schedule to this Act, together with the beds and banks , is vested in the provisions of this Act.”
Enang at the briefing stressed that the purpose of his explanations was not to argue against or condemn the Senate for stepping down the bill for now, but to make Nigerians know that there was no sinister motive behind the bill as being speculated on social media platforms and articles in the newspapers.
Meanwhile, a report on the contentious bill expected to have been submitted to the Senate on the May 30 by the ad- hoc committee hurriedly set up for that purpose is still being awaited even while the Senate has gone on recess till July 3, 2018.
Senators Godswill Akpabio, Gbenga Ashafa, Adeola Olamilekan and others had during debate on the bill argued that it will create more controversy for Nigerians, since all the rivers in Nigeria cut across two or more states, which, according to them, implies that the federal government will be in control of all the waters and resources in the country.
They argued that the right thing should be for the Bill to specify the rivers which the federal government should take over.
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