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Monday, August 15, 2022

Lawmakers urged to trash controversial water bill

The Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has urged the National Assembly to trash the controversial Water Resources Bill, which was re-presented on June 29, 2022, for First Reading by Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli from Katsina State.

National Assembly
National Assembly

The bill, which was initially introduced and rejected by the lawmakers during the 8th Assembly following public outcry, was reintroduced in the current 9th National Assembly in 2020 but faced backlash again from Nigerians, forcing the National Assembly to step it down.

Groups that are opposing the bill include the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, the Nigerian Bar Association, the Afenifere socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU) and the Ijaw National Congress, among others. A notable voice against the bill is Nobel Laureate and playwright, Professor Wole Soyinka.

On September 15, 2020, CAPPA and the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Employees (AUPCTRE) had led a delegation of civil society and labour allies to a meeting with the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Hussein Adamu, to whom a harmonised and well laid-out highlights of clause-by-clause analysis of the bill was submitted with specific recommendations encapsulating the voices and concerns of the public.

Contentious sections of the earlier version of the bill included Section 98 which stated that “the use of water shall be subject to licensing provisions”, Section 120 which made it compulsory for Nigerians to obtain a driller’s permit before sinking a borehole in their homes, and Section 107 which says, a license might be cancelled if the licensee fails to make “beneficial” use of the water. CAPPA questioned who determines beneficial use of water. Some of the identified problematic provisions in the previous bill are still recycled in the “revised” version, according to CAPPA.

The group notes that if the bill becomes law, it will empower the Federal Government to control all water resources in the country such as rivers, streams, lakes, and underground water in all parts of the country. It also makes a strong case for the controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) water privatisation model.

In a statement issued in Lagos, CAPPA described the revised version of the bill as exactly the same bill that was rejected by Nigerians and interest groups.

According to the group, the reintroduction of the bill is an insult to Nigerians from all the geopolitical divide, including socio-political groups that have kicked against it from the beginning because of its many anti-people provisions and the ulterior motive of its promoters.

CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said: “It is distasteful that the promoters of the bill did not consider any of the objections by Nigerians about the draft bill but only moved them to other sections with the intent to deceive Nigerians.”

Oluwafemi explained that a clause-by-clause analysis of the re-presented bill conducted by CAPPA showed that, regardless of the “re-packaging” and re-arrangement of its sections and a few expungements, the bill still fails to meet up with the obligation of integrating the tenets of human right to water and sanitation.

“For instance, although ‘promoting public private partnerships in delivery of water services’ has been expunged from the Objectives of the bill under Part 1- Sec 1 (1)(i), the same provision is still retained in Section 13(1)(n) of the bill,” he stated.

In the analysis, CAPPA observed that the bill is still rooted in a privatisation agenda: privatisation of Nigeria’s water resources under the guise of Public Private Partnership which will only worsen the availability, accessibility, and affordability of water resources by common citizens.

The group warned that the bill, if allowed to scale through, would result in dispossessing a section of Nigeria citizens of their inherited and cultural rights to water.

Further, it noted that a dysfunctional consequence of the bill is the establishment of a new Federal Government Commission, Institute and Boards to take over the responsibilities of the states on water resources within territorial jurisdiction, which is their states, which runs contrary to the spirit of true federalism.

CAPPA reiterated its call that a pro-people bill should prioritise the normative elements of accessibility, affordability, and availability of water as mutually exclusive components of the human rights to water by ordinary citizens of Nigeria whose water remains a natural resource which should not be commodified.

“It beats the imagination that the promoters of this bill want to hastily make it a law without due consultation and consideration of the genuine concerns of Nigerians. Again, their ulterior motives are exposed, and Nigerians reject their deception. We want the National Assembly to not just step it down this time but throw it out in its entirety; kill it,” Oluwafemi insisted.

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