The federal government has said that there is nothing sinister or political about the proposed National Water Resources Bill, saying 95 per cent of the provisions are existing regulations in the country.
Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, who laid bare the details of the Bill while speaking with journalists in Abuja during the weekend, said the proposed bill does not introduce anything new to the existing water laws in the country as contained in the laws regulating the Water Resources Act of 1993.
Adamu said that the overall goal of the new legislation is to move the water resources sector in the country forward by promoting efficiency, accountability and prosperity for the citizens.
According to him, “The proposed bill does not introduce anything significantly new to the existing water laws in Nigeria as contained in the laws regulating the Water Resources Act of 1993, the River Basins Development Act, the National Water Resources Institute and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Commission but merely seek to bring all of them into one law. “When passed into law, the bill will not only strengthen states’ ability to partner with private sector players and attract the needed funding to boost water production and distributions, it will also aid them to manage the sector efficiently for the benefit of the people.”
Adamu explained that the bill is being considered to remove the bottlenecks that had held back investments in the nation’s water sector and to empower states and individuals to make the most from the vibrant sector of the economy.
He said, “I am convinced beyond any doubt that the National Water Resources Bill is relevant and appropriate for Nigeria given the fact that more than 80 per cent of nations around the world have subscribed to the concept of Integrated Water Management, which seeks to promote citizens’ rights, eliminate hindrances to the management of water as an economic resource and help to empower the people.”
He said the bill is conceived in good faith and has no intention to usurp the powers of states, communities and individuals as widely insinuated by some sections in the country.
The Minister said the power to allocate land for any water-related project under the bill is still vested on the governors of the respective states in the country.
He continued, “The only new addition envisaged by the water bill is a deliberate effort to improve irrigation in Nigeria with proper funding from international banking institutions and empower Nigerian farmers to derive more yield from their investments by making abundant water for them at little or no costs.”
He said a total of 60,000 hectares of farmland is lost yearly due to poor irrigation facilities whereas the nation can grow up to 130,000 hectares of irrigated farmland nationwide yearly.
“We are therefore contemplating an efficient irrigation management system for Nigeria under the water resources bill that will increase irrigation to at least 500,000 hectares of land by 2030”, the minister said.
Adamu also announced that the federal government wants to use the new law to help states get incentives to boost their water production capacity and make the resource readily available to the people given the high cost of water production equipment.
He added that the Bill was only awaiting concurrence by the Senate, adding that he wondered where the antagonists of the bill were getting negatives information about the bill.
Adamu said despite the strident opposition to the bill by some political actors and sections of the country, he was optimistic that well-meaning Nigerians would see the inherent benefits and support the National Assembly to pass it into law for the overall interest of Nigerians.