Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on Saturday called on the National Assembly to reject the National Water Resources Bill in the interest of the country.
Ortom said the provisions of the bill were are at variance with the Land Use Act, and that the bill was a “disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country.”
Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, had raised the alarm over attempts by the Federal Government, with the connivance of the National Assembly, to return the National Water Resources Bill rejected by the public in 2018.
In a statement on Thursday titled, ‘MLK’s mighty stream of righteousness,’ Soyinka kicked against the bill’s return.
“A roundly condemned project blasted out of sight by public outrage one or two years ago is being exhumed and sneaked back into service by none other than a failed government, and with the consent of a body of people, supposedly elected to serve as custodians of the rights, freedoms and existential exigencies of millions. This bill – Bill on National Water resources 2020 – is designed to hand Aso Rock absolute control over the nation’s entire water resources, both over and underground,” he said.
Also reacting to the plan, Ortom said the bill, which seeks to bring all water sources (surface and underground) as well as riverbanks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies, was anti-federalism and negated the right of Nigerians to their God-given resources.
In a statement signed by Terver Akase, his Chief Press Secretary, Ortom quoted Section 13 of the bill, which stated, “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 groundwater resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.”
Ortom described as curious the reintroduction of the bill, stating that those pushing for its passage at all costs had a surreptitious motive which was not yet clear to many Nigerians.
The statement read in part, “He (Ortom) says the bill, in addition to its provisions which are at variance with the Land Use Act, is a disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country.
“The governor maintains that the bill is another version of Ruga, whose objective is to create grazing areas in the 36 states of the federation for herders and their livestock.
“He commends sociocultural organisations such as Afenifere, Ohanaeze, and Middle Belt Forum for speaking against the reintroduction of the bill at the National Assembly.
“Governor Ortom urges the federal lawmakers to act as true representatives of the people for the sake of posterity, and to remember that the destiny of the country lies in their hands.”
The governor urged lawmakers at the National Assembly to toe the path of honour by rejecting the bill as the 8th Assembly did.