The Muhammadu Buhari administration can be credited with a number of policies and legal instruments perceived to be stifling the democratic space and capable of setting the various Nigerian groups at permanent loggerheads with one another.
Apart from the Hate Speech Bill and “anti-Social Media” Bill, the regime had also pushed for the RUGA policy which had to be suspended because Nigerians vehemently rejected it.
Also, the potentially-explosive “Water Resources” Bill, which failed to pass in the 8th Senate, has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives. This time, the promoters of this Bill are desperately violating the due process to ram it through.
Titled: “The Water Resources Bill 2020”, Section 13, states: “In implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and ground water resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.” Section 2(1) of the Bill, says: “All surface water and ground water wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people.”
Simply put, the Bill seeks to empower the Federal Government to control all sources of water in Nigeria. The Federal Government can permit anybody or group from any part of the country and to go and possess any water resource without the consent of the local communities.
This is nothing but another push for the defeated RUGA policy packaged to grab people’s lands to set up grazing reserves or cattle colonies.
With desertification, terrorism and violence ravaging parts of the North, this Bill is seen as a ploy by the Federal Government to deprive some people of their natural patrimony for the benefit of others without the voluntary consent of the resource owners.
If this Bill is allowed, herdsmen under “federal” mandate, can take over lands adjoining the springs, streams, rivers, lakes, lagoons and coastal precincts which have served as means of livelihood for the local communities since the dawn of time.
The Federal Government will be appropriating the constitutional powers of the state governors to hold land resources in trust for the people of their states.
It will be a recipe for disaster. The conflicts and bloodshed that this provocative law will trigger will be endless. Land and water resources have been the major causes of wars in history. This will certainly not be an exception. The purveyors of these predatory laws are enemies of our national stability and must be stopped.
If it were still under military rule, the Water Resources Bill and similar laws would simply be promulgated and rammed down the throats of Nigerians not minding the consequences! This Bill must be thrown out again to save Nigeria from violent disintegration.