The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the National Water Resources Bill 2020 owing to its pro-privatisation and other anti-people provisions.
The letter to President Buhari was informed by a clause-by-clause analysis of the bill done by both organisations which exposed the dangers it posed to attainment of the Human Right to Water, and the wide criticism that its re-emergence at the National Assembly has garnered from both civil society and other groups across the federation.
AUPCTRE and CAPPA, in the letter, dated September 3, 2020, addressed to the President Muhammadu Buhari, said the bill had very disturbing provisions and would impose a privatisation agenda on Nigerians with accompanying draconian provisions that was only possible in the military era.
The bill, titled “An Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, provide for the equitable and sustainable development management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface Water and Ground Water Resources and for related matters”, failed to secure concurrent passage by both Houses under the Eighth Assembly in 2018. In the current Assembly, it has scaled Second Reading in the House of Representatives and has been referred to the House Committee on Rules and Business.
In the letter signed by AUPCTRE National President, Comrade Benjamin Anthony, and CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, both organisations expressed worry that two years after the same Bill was discarded, it again found its way to the hallowed chambers in an unwholesome manner and without recourse to public opinion and protocols.
They were particularly concerned about Sections 1, 2, 3, 13, 22, 24, 89, 98, 104, 105 and 107. As well as Sections 109, 110, 120, 121, 125, 129 and 131.
In Section 1 (l), they alerted that though on the surface of the bill, it appears that public-private partnership is beneficial and will only apply to infrastructural development of water resources, there was no way private corporations would commit resources to the development of water without a measure of control and ownership.
They also explained that Section 24 which gives almost absolute power to a commission to be set up was outrageous, and vests too much power in the same Commission, and therefore subjects activities on water management and control to arbitrariness and the possible political whims and caprices of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
They found Section 104 (7) which subjects anyone who contravenes the law to prison terms ranging from two to five years as “arbitrary and against the spirit of human rights.”
They insisted that if the bill scales through with its current intent and imperfections, it would result in dispossessing Nigerian citizens of their inherited and cultural rights to water and that it was against the spirit of the July 28, 2010 United Nations General Assembly Resolution which recognised in explicit terms, the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.
As a way forward, they requested that President Buhari use his good office to recall the contentious document from the legislative quarters and kickstart a fresh process which will entail consultation with Nigerians from the initial stages through the entire process at the National Assembly.
Copies of the letter were also sent to the Vice president, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate and House Committee Chairs on Water Resources. The House Committee on Rules and Business and the Minister of Water Resources were also in copy.