Nigeria and the controversial Water Resources Bill

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The Problem Statement

Water is life. An adequate supply of water breeds survival and civilization and its importance can’t be overemphasized.

Nigeria, being a tropical West African country having many rivers, streams and lakes still lack access to quality water. In addition to being blessed with abundant water resources and the Government commitment in investing water schemes and other related activities, it is still faced with more and more challenges as the increase in the demand of water has skyrocketed because of its overwhelming population.

Consequently, the country is faced with challenges inhibiting the progress of the water resources policy and implementation which includes high population growth rate coupled with increasing urbanization, shortages of water in urban and rural areas, competing water uses, lower level of irrigation potential, degrading watersheds and watercourses, fragmented and uncoordinated water resources development, poor data and lack of cooperation on co-riparian use of international waters, all in a situation of rapid population growth and diminishing funds. The nation faces symptoms of poor and uncoordinated management of the resource which has spurred these problems.

The Policy Solution

Nigeria has numerous policy guidelines for water resource management existing only at the federal level. Some of the policies associated with water resources and sanitation include the 1989 National Policy on Environment, the 1993 Water Resources Decree no. 101, the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2000, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy 2000, the National Water Resources Management Policy 2003, and the National Water Sanitation Policy 2004.

Under the National Policy on Environment of 1989, the field of water resources management recognizes catchment basins as the unit of analysis in water management and even regulates water quality standards and pollution control. Following the enactment of the Water Resources Decree no. 101 of 1993, it establishes that water is owned by the nation, managed and controlled by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.

The National Water Policy (NWP) 2004 recognizes the need to balance water uses, water allocation and water protection carefully through a regulatory system of river basin-based management and a participatory approach. Some of its objectives are:

  • Promoting the efficient, sustainable and beneficial use of water in the public interest;
  • Facilitating social development, poverty reduction, improved public health and economic development; and
  • Encouraging appropriate private sector involvement in the delivery of water services, Promoting dams safety and meeting international obligations.

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NIGAC Constructive Position/Take

In spite of abundant water resources in Nigeria, 75% of Nigerians do not have access to safe drinking or domestic water. A number of agencies are vested with the responsibility of providing and managing Nigeria’s water resources. The Federal Government established the Ministry of Water Resources which is responsible for drafting current national water policy for the nation.

A relatively new water bill has faced a barrage of criticism following its reintroduction in the 9th assembly.

The water resource bill seeks to bring all water resources (surface and underground) and the banks of the water sources under the control of the Federal Government. Critics of the bill say if the bill is passed into law it may endanger national unity of the country.

It is abundantly clear that there is a need of a water policy that will address all the challenges and be of benefit to Nigerians. Water transportation should be a major concern in the drafting of the new bill. Existing and new stakeholders have to be taken along.

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