By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Senate has commenced legislative activities to harmonize and consolidate the several disparate legislations that regulate and govern the water sector thus making its legal framework friendlier.
At a one day public hearing yesterday on two bills relating to water resources development, Senate President Bukola Saraki affirmed need for the protection, development, conservation and managent of the nation’s water resources which he said must be controlled in ways which will promote equitable and affordable access to water and improved public health.
Two Bills subjected to the public hearing are; River Basin Development Authority Act (2004) Bill 2016, and National Water Resources Bill 2017.
Saraki who was represented by the Senate Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, while recalling that “among the numerous natural resources in Nigeria, the rational use of water resources poses a great problem and challenge to the nation, and have been seriously tackled by the River Basin Development Authorities which were set up to manage the resources, even as expenditure on various water projects by the federal government has run into billions of Naira since the establishment of the River Basin Development Authorities, the objective of the water resources bill is to ensure that issues relating to the allocation and use of water resources are properly identified and managed.”
The Bill provides for the establishment of the Nigeria water resources commission (NWRRC) with the mandate of developing standards, water allocation, pricing and providing technical guidance to the water sector.
The Bill on River Basin Development Authority Bill seeks to realign the jurisdiction of the various River Basins Development Authorities for ease of reference and administration and provide a legal basis for some existing River Basin Development Authorities that had no law creating them like the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority.
According to Saraki, “the bill would divide the existing Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority into two , namely an Imo River Basin Development Authority catering for Imo and Abia States and an Anambra River Basin Development Authority providing for Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi States.”
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water Resources, Senator Muhammad Ubali Shitu, observed that the National Water Resources (Establishment) Bill, 2017 has been drafted to actualize the policy direction of the current administration as approved and more importantly represents current global trends and best practices in the integrated water resources management.
He described the bill as one of the most revolutionary legislation to be considered by the 8th parliament, especially bearing in mind that when passed into law “it is expected to trigger change that will see the water resources of this country unbundled to encourage public- private participation that will build a strong synergy between the national water resources and the value chain in the environment, agriculture, health, inland waterways, solid minerals, forestry, electricity generation, emergency management, meteorological and hydrological sectors. “