Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu, on Tuesday, said the contentious National Water Resources Bill 2020 will benefit Southern Nigeria more than the North because the largest proportion of fresh water supply in Nigeria emanate from the North.
Also, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the most strident opposition to the bill were being made by individuals not conversant with its details.
Mohammed said there was nothing new about the Bill since it is an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that have been in existence for a long time.
They include Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004, River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap R9 LFN 2004, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N1100A, LFN 2004 and National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83 LFN 2004.
He explained that the laws were being re-enacted with necessary modifications to bring them in line with current global trends as well as best practices in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).
“The overall objective of this amalgamation is the Efficient management of the Water Resources Sector for the economic development of Nigeria and the well-being of its citizens.
“The Bill provides for professional and efficient management of all surface and groundwater for the use of the people (i.e. for domestic and non-domestic use, irrigation, agricultural purposes, generation of Hydro-electric energy, navigation, fisheries and recreation).
It will also ensure that the nation’s water resources were protected, used, Developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable manner that will benefit all persons by providing for the creation of an enabling environment for public and private sector investment; provide for capacity building processes to foster good governance; and establish water use and licensing framework to ensure sustainable financing for water sector development from tariffs.
Mohammed said the Bill does not seek to seize control of water resources from state governments because it was already on the exclusive list.
He also clarified that the Code Of Practice for Water Well Drillers issued by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the NWRI in 2010 already required commercial borehole drillers obtain a license before proceeding with such activity.
“Please note that borehole regulation is an international standard for the abstraction of large volumes of water. Most countries in Africa, and almost every developed country, regulates commercial abstraction.
“It is also important to note that there is no requirement for licensing of domestic abstraction. Regulating abstraction of large volumes of water Is necessary because groundwater abstraction is an activity that has Environmental and ecological impact.”
Mohammed contended that the Bill does not negate the Land Use Act because it clearly states that land required by any of the institutions established in the Bill will be obtained in accordance with the Land Use Act (i.e with Governor’s Consent).
Furthermore, he said “communities on river banks are guaranteed undisturbed Use of water as stated in Section 3 of the Bill.
“Also, all occupiers of land are guaranteed the right of abstraction for domestic and Sustenance, whether by borehole or rivers.
“Section 3 reiterates the right of persons to continue to access water without charge for Subsistence and preserves existing customary rights to water. (see Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the Bill).
“Section 2 of the Water Resources Act, 2004 is reproduced. This section protects the right of persons to use water for domestic purposes without charge and recognises the right of a holder of the customary or statutory right of occupancy to access water for personal and household use but not for commercial purposes.”
On the fear that the Bill was aimed at taking the resources of a certain part of the country for the use of herders or that the Federal Government was seeking to implement RUGA by subterfuge, Mohammed said: “This is not the intent of the Bill and it is not even possible, as the Bill reiterates the fact that Land can only be acquired by any of the institutions established in accordance with the Land Use Act.”
Adamu who presented a map of Nigeria to buttress his point said the Bill was to ensure that no state government or large corporations deploy the country’s water resources in a way that will be a detriment to others.
According to him, the draft Bill was ready to be presented to the National Assembly as far back as 2008 but that ministers of water resources since then failed to forward it to parliament for enactment.
“The initial draft was done in 2006 and the final draft was made in 2008. It went through a roadshow across the geopolitical zones before the final draft was adopted. For some reasons, my predecessors did not take the Bill to the National Assembly.”
Adamu said after he became a minister he sent copies of the Bill to all the but that while some responded, others did not.
Also, at the National Council of Water Resources meeting of May 2016 where all the commissioners responsible for water resources were in attendance, everybody endorsed the Bill.
“From thereon, we took the Bill to the Federal Executive Council (FEC). FEC is made up of ministers from all the 36 states and the Bill was approved by FEC.