Nigeria: Groups Condemn Plans to Re-Introduce Water Resources Bill

30 September 2020

Two civil society organisations, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have condemned plans by some members of the House of Representatives to reintroduce the National Water Resources Bill into the House.

The bill was withdrawn Tuesday during a rowdy session in the House.

Some lawmakers alleged a breach of House Standing Rules while working towards passing the bill into law and relied on the anomaly to ask the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to throw the bill away or at best have it reworked and then represented for consideration.

Following this development, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa said the House would start the consideration of the bill afresh.

In a statement issued in Lagos, AUPCTRE and CAPPA said that the plan to reintroduce the bill smacks of respect for the wishes of Nigerians who have unanimously called for it to be trashed because of its ambiguous, obnoxious, and pro-privatisation clauses.

"We are not in any way perturbed by the withdrawal of the bill but we are very worried that even with the confirmation that the current effort to pass it is a backdoor deal, its promoters are still pressing ahead with trying to reintroduce it and foisting it on Nigerians," said Benjamin Anthony, AUPCTRE National President.

"It is totally unexplainable and unacceptable."

Mr Anthony cautioned the House of Representatives from considering the Bill in its present form, advising that Nigerians must be part of the process of a genuine people-centred bill from the initial stages through the entire process at the National Assembly.

The National Water Resources Bill, which passed second reading in the House and referred to a committee, had generated severe criticisms from Nigerians, including the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and the Nigerian Labour Congress.

The federal government, who introduced the bill, had pushed back on the criticisms, describing opponents of the bill as "anti-people."

While ruling on the withdrawal of the bill from the House, Speaker Gbajabiamila said the bill should be gazetted for fresh consideration.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA Executive Director, said the House's decision to withdraw the bill vindicates the position of civil society groups.

"We had noted that the speed with which it was smuggled into the House and passed was very suspicious," said Mr Oluwafemi.

"Our position will not change. This kind of draconian Bill is not what Nigerians need. Not currently, and never."

Since reports made the rounds about the Bill passing the Second Reading AUPCTRE and CAPPA started campaigning vigorously for it to be jettisoned. The two organisations addressed a press conference in Lagos to highlight the detrimental provisions of the bill and came up with a demand that the controversial Bill be withdrawn from the National Assembly while insisting that Nigerians must be properly carried along in the issues that affect them. On September 5, 2020, the two organisations wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari raising objections about various sections of the Bill that are contentious.

The Sections include 1, 2, 3, 13, 22, 24, 89, 98, 104, 105 and 107. Others are Sections 109, 110, 120, 121, 125, 129 and 131.

In Section 1 (l) AUPCTRE and CAPPA alerted that though on the surface of the Bill, it appears that Public-private partnership is beneficial and will only apply to the infrastructural development of water resources, there was no way private corporations would commit resources to the development of water without a measure of control and ownership.

"We are unambiguous when we say the motives of the promoters of this ill-conceived Bill are suspicious. The Bill will not do Nigerians good and was not intended to do that. We are using this medium to reiterate our opposition to it and want it trashed. There is no other alternative", they insisted.

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