Water Resources Bill: Presidency comes under fresh fire from N’Deltans

Buhari’s strange question in a strange timePresident Muhammadu Buhari

…Dangerous and divisive bill —Nkanga

…Disguising onshore/offshore dichotomy —Mudiaga-Odje

…Bill should be buried at this time —Ambakederimo

…Nothing bad with the bill — Ugolor, Welson

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una, Chioma Onuegbu, Davies Iheamnachor,Emem Idio & Ozioruva Aliu

People of the South-South region, yesterday, rose resolutely against the Water Resources Bill, rebuking the Presidency for trying to force the notorious bill on Nigerians, notwithstanding the fact that they had in turn opposed its passage by the National Assembly in the past.

Leaders and stakeholders of the oil rich region, who spoke to Vanguard,  were angry at the seemingly suspicious manner the Federal Government was handling the matter.

Dangerous and divisive bill —Nkanga

National Leader of Pan Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, the assembly of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the coastal states of Niger Delta, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd) said: “The stand of PANDEF on the reintroduction of the Water Resources Bill is that if they do not want to destroy this country, they should just keep it away because it has been rejected severally before.

“To even try to reintroduce it through the back door is a clear mark of dishonesty. So, we are saying the Federal Government should be honest with the country.

“Why is it that they want to sneak it in through the back door? They should just keep it aside because it has been rejected before, and it will be continuously rejected.

“We are telling our policymakers of the South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt not to stay in that National Assembly to support a bill that is anti-peace and against this country. If they do, let them remain there, let them not even think of coming back. We believe that if all of them come together and say ‘no’, that bill will not be passed.

“To all our National Assembly members, we are saying this is the time to stand up and be counted. It is a very dangerous bill that could completely destroy the fragile unity of this country. So, if the members in the National Assembly for whatever reason keep quiet and support such a bill, history will never forgive them.”

Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Calabar zone, Dr Aniekan Brown, said: “A situation where you give water resources to the Federal Government is an aberration.

“In fact, as we speak, there should not be a Federal Ministry for Water Resources. There is no reason to have such a federal ministry control water resources. What would state and local governments do?

“So my take is that the very thing the Federal Government  should be doing for this country would have been largely in the context of external relations, not a situation where you want to increase the responsibility of the Federal Government

“I, therefore, challenge our members, especially those from this part of the country in the National Assembly. All of them should gang up against the passage of the bill.”

Disguising onshore/offshore dichotomy —Mudiaga-Odje

Rights activist and lawyer, Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje, who spoke in Delta State, said: “Indeed, the waterway bill is a re-introduction of the political incubus called the ‘Onshore/Offshore Dichotomy.’

“This bill will stifle, obfuscate and obliterate the riparian rights of the littoral states of this checkered federation. Under Section 44 (3) of the constitution, all natural resources, including oil and gas, belonging to our despoiled  people of the weather beaten Niger Delta have since been expropriated by the Nigerian state.

“To go further, take away waters from the littoral states is not only callous, but indeed a crime against the world and a sin against God.”

Capturing our land for herdsmen —Magege

Former Chairman, Delta State Waste Management Board, Chief Olori Magege, said: “The Water Resources Control Bill is as vexatious as it is obnoxious, particularly to the southern Nigerians and Middle Belters, who have been on the receiving end of the Fulani marauders.

“It is Buhari fulanization agenda to seize lands of indigenous people and hand them over to Fulani herdsmen Miyetti Allah stock.

READ ALSO: No to Water Resources Bill —Southern, Middle-Belt Leaders’ Forum tells Buhari

“The bill, if passed, vests ownership and control of all river basins in the country in the hands of the Federal Government. Take for instance Delta State, River Niger enters into Delta from Oshimili and flows through Aniocha to Ndokwa, Isoko, Ijaw lands with thousands of tributaries in Urhobo land and Itshekiri land.

“River Ethiope crisscrossed Ukwuani land into Urhobo lands of Orogun, Abraka, Okpe, Agbon, Idjere, Mosogar and Oghara before entering Itshekiri and Ijaw land. Then there are hundreds of rivers in-between the Niger and Ethiope Rivers flowing to the sea in the rest of Delta State.”

S’South govs, other stakeholders should meet —Iniruo Wills

Iniruo Wills, who is President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter), Bayelsa State, said: “Our governors should meet urgently with other key stakeholders to take clear common positions on the Water Resources Bill.

“It is another intended obnoxious law being contemplated against our people and communities, hence everything should be done to shoot it down. It should not be allowed to fly because there is more to it than interest for the Federal Government.

“Federalism that takes away from the people instead of protecting what the people have is a bad form of federalism. They have, through such obnoxious laws denied our people of resources under the ground. If this Water Resources Bill is not brought to naught, one day, the government will deny us of the air God has given us freely to breath.”

Bill should be buried at this time —Ambakederimo

Convener, South- South Reawakening Group, Joseph Ambakederimo, speaking also said: “From what I have gleaned so far regarding this Water Resources Bill controversy,  one would ask for the bill to be laid to rest or the processes associated with bill passing in the NASS should be strictly adhered to.

“NASS should feel the impulse of the people at all times and where they think a bill is not popular with the people,  such bill should be confined to the shelf. I sincerely hope that the Water Resources Bill should be buried at this time.”

Nigerians should resist the bill —Onuesoke

Also, former Delta State governorship aspirant, Chief Sunny Onuesoke, said: “Nigerians should speak out against the reintroduction of the Water Resources Bill. If the bill is allowed to sail through, it will vest the power over all water sources across the federation in the hands of the executive.

“I, therefore, appeal to Nigerians to resist this move to grab land around waterways for cattle herders by the executive arm of government. I see the bill as decoy to advance the interests of the cattle-herding population.

“Even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had raised concerns over the piece of legislation on July 23, querying: ‘is this not the same bill that generated controversy in the media’.”

On his part, rights activist, Emmanuel Igbini, said: “The Water Resources Bill is a deliberate move to distract Nigerians from shocking revelations of massive looting of public funds in some MDAs, the China Loans of slavery, killings and insecurity particularly in northern Nigeria.”

Trash the bill —Omare

Immediate past president, Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Eric Omare,  said: “The information I have about the bill is that among other things, it seeks to control management of water resources across states in Nigeria.  However, what I have not come to terms is how the bill seeks to promote good governance and the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.

“This is important because the overarching responsibility of the National Assembly is to make laws for the good governance and promote peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.”

Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Cross River, Dr Lawrence Ekwok, said: “Without equivocation, the Water Resources Management Bill by the Federal Government is the continuous process to undermine the will of the people and seize their land for obnoxious reasons.

On his part, Dr Franklin Adejuwon, a former Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said those behind the proposed bill have an ulterior motive.

Speaking with Vanguard, Adejuwon called on the proponents of the bill to take into consideration the political, moral, economic, constitutional sensitivity and implications to the entire country especially to the south-west and south-east of the nation

Nothing bad with Bill — Ugolor, Welson 

However, Executive Director, African Network for the Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, said: “It will be wrong for people to continue to give tribal and religious colouration to every attempt by the Nigerian elite to continue to look for ways to sustain their access to rent collection. Once you introduce tribal or religious or regional sentiments, you undermine the whole debate.

“What has happened with the water bill thing is not about the north or south or east or west. It is about elite that have poor background, that live on rent and Nigerian elite that live on oil wealth know that the amount of rent coming from oil is increasingly decreasing and there is need to explore other options and water provides another opportunity to sustain their rent collection. It is not just the north, it is the Nigerian elite.”

Also, Executive Director, Centre for Democracy and Development of Bayelsa, CDDB, Dr Konrad Welson, said: “If you are running a federalism, there are certain things that have to be collectively managed, one of them is natural resource like water. Water is a natural resource that has to be managed properly in such a way that it is to the benefit of the entire country.”



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