The Federal government has refuted allegations that the National Water Bill would cede large swathe of land along river banks to herdsmen, saying that there is no hidden agenda behind the Bill.
Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, and his Water Resources counterpart, Suleiman Adamu, who briefed journalists, in Abuja, on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, insisted that land ownership was not affected by the Bill, in any way.
The briefing followed the unending controversy that has trailed the Bill currently making its way through the National Assembly, with many dissenting Nigerians accusing the federal government of having a hidden agenda, especially with the aim of handing over the nation’s river banks to herdsmen.
According to Mohammed, “The Bill also does not apply to land. It clearly states that land required by any of the institutions established by the Bill would be obtained in accordance with the Land Use Act (i.e with Governor’s consent).
“Critics contend that the Bill, when passed into law, will clip the wings of state and local government authorities, as well as individuals, from making use of the water in their backyards without permission from Abuja “Our response: 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. Section 2 of the Water Resources
“Critics contend that the Bill is aimed at taking the resources of a certain part of the country for the use of herders. In other words, the Federal Government is seeking to implement RUGA by subterfuge.
“Our Response: 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. Almost all the Institutions have State Representatives.
The Regulatory Commission Board comprises representatives of the six-geo political regions. The State level basins management includes representatives of each state in the Basin.”
The minister said that there was nothing entirely new about the Bill but an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that had been in existence for a long time.
They included: Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004; The River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap R9 LFN 2004; The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N1100A, LFN 2004; and the – National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83 LFN 2004.
The laws, he said, 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,” he minister said.
According to him, “The Bill will ensure that the nation’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all persons.
“Among other benefits, the Bill: provides for the creation of an enabling environment for public and private sector investment; provides for capacity building processes to foster good governance; establishes water use and licensing framework to ensure sustainable financing for Water Sector Development from tariffs.”
Mohammed said that many of those criticising the Bill had not even bothered to read its provisions, thus depending on second-hand information to reach their conclusions and that those who have read it “have perhaps done so perfunctorily.”
He noted that borehole regulation was an international standard for 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 domestic abstraction.
Regulating abstraction of large volumes of water is necessary, because groundwater abstraction is an activity that has environmental and ecological impact.