SUBJECT: Why the proposed national water resources bill must not be passed into law
This open letter addresses the Yoruba position on the proposed “National Water Resources Bill 2020,” an executive bill submitted to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law. We appeal that you work strenuously and in alliance with others from across the country for the total rejection of this obnoxious bill.
1. Nigeria was founded as a federation and our first and still the most autochthonous Constitution was negotiated on the principle of federalism. Consequent upon this principle, each federating unit has the unassailable right to determine what power or responsibility to cede to the central government.
2. At no time, whether in the past or present, did the Yoruba people agree to cede the management of water resources in their domain to the central government. We therefore view the proposed bill as an affront and a deliberate ploy by its proponents to subjugate the interest of our people.
3. We are forced to question the procedure by which a bill assumes the tag of an executive bill. Was it ever discussed and approved at any meeting of the Federal Executive Council? If yes, then it is shameful that Yoruba members of the federal cabinet, along with members of other stakeholder nationalities, agreed to such a proposal. If not, then on what basis is this bill worthy of being called an executive bill?
4. With crude oil and solid minerals, Nigeria’s history is replete with an opaque and unaccountable mode of governance, with attendant incapability to manage resources in a sustainable and non-prejudiced manner.
5. There is therefore no justifiable reason to add water to the list of resources to be exclusively managed by the Federal Government. This is the Yoruba position, which is further reinforced by the comments below.
The following sections, clauses and portions of the proposed bill highlight the reasons why this bill should be opposed by every well meaning Nigerian.
Section 1(2)(b). Management of resources at the lowest appropriate level is touted as one of the principles that will guide this proposed bill, but its provisions are characterised by the usual centralisation of power and responsibilities, revenue collections, appointments, and policy directives. For instance, the proposed bill criminalises the usage of water except as stipulated in the bill. The import of this is that we will all have to obtain license to drill borehole in our backyard from a proposed Water Resources Regulatory Commission.
The Minister shall have the power to make regulations, policies and strategies for the proper carrying out of the provisions of this Act and functioning of the Ministry in accordance with this Act as well as in accordance with other directives he may receive from the President and any guidance from the Council
How effectively can one person sitting in Abuja regulate the use of water in Nigeria’s far flung states? This should not be the function of a minister but that of the federating units. Under no circumstance should one person be saddled with the responsibility of regulating a crucial resource like water. Such power vested in one person is prone to abuse and there are clear examples.
Section 22(1)(b) empowers the proposed Water Regulatory Commission to “be responsible for economic and technical regulation of all aspect of National water resources exploitation and provision”
The bill, when subjected to its full dimension, meaning and context reveals a sublime attempt to take over, manage, and nationalise the economic potentials and derivatives of the water resources in the federating units. Instead of encouraging the tested principles of federalism to unleash the growth potentials of Nigerians at the lowest level of governance, the federal government is growing a rapacious appetite to put a lien on every aspect of Nigerians’ lives.
The Commission may, subject to regulations made under this Act and conditions imposed, authorize all or any category of persons to use water by notice in the Gazette –
(b) in relation to a specific water resource; or
(c) within an area specified in the notice,
This is another repressive clause in the proposed bill that unmasks the neo-colonial intention of its proponents. The federal government has never hidden its desire to grant foreign herdsmen certain rights that obliterates the rights of local farmers. This clause, if the bill is allowed to pass, expressly grants that and we wonder if it is not another attempt to institutionalise the rejected RUGA policy.
Subject to this Act, any right, obligations, or duty accruing to any person or authority by virtue of any licences, permits, approvals or agreements with respect to any of the activities for which provision is made under this Act, together with any rights in or over any land or water vested in any person pursuant to the Water Resources Act Cap W2 LFN, 2004, as well as the River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap 396 LFN 1990, shall continue to vest in such person or authority as if it had accrued, vested or been acquired pursuant to this Act.
Any law, regulation, bye-law, or notice, of any State or Local Government Council in force immediately prior to the date of commencement of this Act, in relation to any subject matter or activity provided for under this Act shall be of no force and effect to the extent that it is covered under this Act.
If we contrast Section 132(4) to Section 133(6), it becomes clearer why every well meaning Nigerian should oppose this bill. This bill in Section 132(4) seeks to take over the duties, rights, and acquisitions of existing federal agencies pursuant to its provisions while in Section 133(6), it seeks to nullify the existing rights, duties, and acquisitions of sub-national governments in the same manner. This is neo-colonialism packaged as democratic initiative.
Nigeria’s Federal Government operates on the principle of controlling and subduing sub-national entities. This is evident in its recent attempt to subsume the security initiative of the governors of Southwest states, Amotekun, under its control. This principle is only practicable in a unitary state, not in a federal state like Nigeria. The same domineering tendency is obvious in this proposed bill.
The federal government cannot be trusted to manage national resources in a manner that satisfies, protects, and promote the ethnic and religious diversity of the country.
The federal government is not known to listen to criticisms, even when such is constructive. The composition of the headship of all armed forces agencies have been ‘northernised’ and despite worsening spate of insecurity, to the point that soldiers are now beginning to speak out on a scale never seen before. Yet, the federal government seems unconcerned. Nobody wants their life and/or death to be determined by a people or government that cannot improve their living standard.
If the right to manage water is vested solely in the central government, all the ethnic nationalities would by themselves be putting their necks in a noose.
Hon. Olawale Oshun Mr. Ayo Afolabi Mr. Kunle Famoriyo
National Chairman General Secretary Publicity Secretary
Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG)