By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Suleiman Hussein Adamu has reappraised the general principles of the bill seeking to regulate the upstream and downstream sector of the water resources in the country, saying that it will greatly usher in sustainable growth and development of the sector.
The minister spoke at the weekend during a news meeting with newsmen in his office in Abuja.
He said some of the misinformation and outright falsehood from some quarters were due to the fact that the purveyors have not taken time to closely study the intentions of the bill which he said is in the interest of the generality of all Nigerians residing at the upstream and downstream course of our national waters.
He said the bill is consistent with the constitution and it seeks to regulate the use of water passing several states to prevent infringement on the right of users downstream, adding that the bill is in line with Item 64 of the exclusive list which specifies the use and control of waters in the country.
He said there are four laws that govern water issues including the Lower River basin Act and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Act, and that water users need to be empowered and educated on how water flows southward from the north, which is why the regulation sought by the bill is necessary to protect the interest of southern users of water by any possible infringement from the north.
“We have four fragmented laws on water resources and the bill seeks to merge the four laws into one statute of laws already existing on water resources,” suggesting that the content of the bill is not entirely new.
One of the few additions in the bill, he said, is to enhance the irrigation systems to promote dry season farming.
He said every domestic and individual user of water has a right to be protected, and that the bill only intends to control unwholesome commercial use of water without recourse to enabling laws.
“Every citizen has a right to use of water. What we are regulating is the commercial use of water. If we don’t monitor and control ground water and surface water, we will jeopardise the right of future generation,” the minister said.
He said a lot of our ground waters are polluted by factors that require regulation in the form of laws, adding that there is need for national guidelines on how boregoles are drilled in the couhtry, including issuing licences to drillers, and to control all drilling activities in the country.
Citing examples of the effects of uncontrolled water use, he said there are strong indications that lake Chad in the north eastern part of Nigeria is drying up fast because of huge exploitation of water without regulation in Libya, among other unfavorable factors.
He said the water bill is proposed for the smooth management of water by the FG and is not a Buhari or Ruga bill, as is being branded in some quarters.
Tracing the stages the bill has passed through before now, the Water Resources Minister said he bill was earlier passed by the House of Representatives in the previous government without controversy, but it met some brickwall in the Senate.
“I took the bill to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, and it was approved. The AGF was mandated to finetune the bill in 2017 and the bill was passed by Reps.
“ The bill was pesented to the Senate in 2018 and some senators asked some questions who were not satisfied.
“ A committee was set up to appraise the bill in the Senate and media reports followed attacking the bill as Ruga bill, Buhari bill.
“2019 election disrupted plans to represent the bill in the Senate.
“ In August 2019, I was returned and I continued to pursue the passage of the bill.
“The Reps now stood down the bill for procedures to be followed for representation to Reps and Senate and possible passage into law,” he said.