President Muhammadu Buhari does not intent to create a new law for the purpose of taking over on behalf of the federal government, resources within and around the nation’s waterways contrary to insinuations by critics of the government, so says the SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Solomon Ita Enang who made the defence on Friday at a press conference in Abuja, said the intent of the Bill was misunderstood by lawmakers who kicked against it at the last stage of consideration and some Nigerians making negative comments on it.
He said the overall essence of the Bill is to make all the country’s laws on waterways, in compliance with the international best practice for ease or convenience as they would be contained in a single document rather than different legal documents.
“Let me thank members of the National Assembly for their efforts and intention to present the Bill as it is but there seems to be some misunderstanding on the matter which necessitates my addressing this matter to clear whatever misunderstanding therein,” Ita Enang said.
“This Bill is not about the seas, the territorial waters, among their likes but it talks about inland waterways only,” he added.
The Executive Bill which ran into trouble waters on the floor of the Senate on the 24th of May arising from contentious provisions seeks amongst others for exclusive control and management of Rivers and Lakes in Nigeria by the Federal Government.
It also seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria, provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface and ground water resources and for related matters.
According to the President’s aide, “The National Water Resources Bill 2018 which was forwarded to the National Assembly in 2016 as an executive bill seeks to bring about conglomeration, amalgamation and consolidation of all the existing laws on control and management of water flowing from one state to the other.”
He further explained that the Bill as misconstrued does not intend to confer any new power on the federal government as regards management and control of water ways practices in the country but to harmonize all the laws and Acts into one document.
“Prior to the National Water Resources Bill, various extant laws like the Water Act of 1993, National Water Resource Institute Act of 1985, River Basin Development Authority Act of 1986 and Nigeria Hydrological Act Services Agencies Establishment Act of 2010 have already in one way or the other given the right of control and management of Rivers to the federal government as constitutionally provided for by item 64 of the exclusive legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended.”
The constitutional provision according to him, states that, “The right to the use, management and control of all surface water and ground water affecting more than one State pursuant to item 64 of the exclusive legislative list in part 1 of the second schedule to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, and as set out in the first schedule to this Act, together with the beds and banks, is vested in the provisions of this Act.”
Senator Enang stressed that the purpose of his explanations was not to argue against or condemn the senate for stepping down the Bill for now but to make Nigerians know that there was no any sinister motive behind the bill as being reported on social media platforms and articles in the newspapers.
Meanwhile report on the contentitious bill expected to have been submitted to the Senate on the 30th of last month by the ad- hoc committee hurriedly set up for that purpose is still being awaited although the Senate has gone on recess until July 3rd, 2018.
The ad- hoc committee comprises of the chairman and Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Water Resources and those of Judiciary and Legal matters, and Director of Legal Services, mandated to look into areas of controversies in the Bill.
Senators Godswill Akpabio, Gbenga Ashafa, Adeola Olamilekan, had during the debate on the Bill argued that it will create more controversy for Nigerians, since all the river waters in Nigeria cut across two or more states, which according to them, implies that the federal government will be in control of all the waters and resources thereof in Nigeria.
They argued that it was not right for the Bill to just allow the federal government takeover all the rivers, saying: “The right thing should be for the Bill to specify the rivers in Nigeria which the federal government should takeover.”