The contentious Water Resources Bill by the Nigerian Government – Breaking down the DETAILS

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The contentious Water Resources Bill was finally WITHDRAWN from CONSIDERATION by Members of the House of Representatives after a ROWDY session that identified a LOOP-HOLE in the process that led to its PASSAGE in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Now let’s be CLEAR, Nigeria needs this WATER Resources Bill to be ENACTED to enable it access a US$ 495.30 million Loan from the World Bank – this language of the Bill seeks to COMMERCIALIZE Water Resources in Nigeria for Agricultural and Industrial Purposes. This was an Executive Bill promoted by the Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources. We don’t even want to emphasize the northernization of the entire scope of the project because we believe that if a Loan will be paid for by Nigerians then a project to be so implemented must be nationally implemented so every segment of the country enjoys the benefits.

(https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/project-detail/P123112)

Like always, the Nigerian Government has failed in its basic OBLIGATION to carry along CRITICAL STAKEHOLDERS but importantly, it is NECCESSARY to note that the BILL is even putting the CART before the HORSE as this bill is not mature enough to be passed into law. We cannot build something on nothing. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources should work with state governments and ensure the infrastructure that can sustain it is put in place. Government needs to do a lot of groundwork, including sensitizing stakeholders and adjusting the contents of the bill, based on their input. This requires a lot of hard work, not just paperwork. Nigeria as at today does not have the required resources to enact some of the stringent LANGUAGE and REGULATIONS it was TRYING to pass into LAW.

These are just some HIGHLIGHTS of the abandoned ACT:

The bill proposed that water usage be subjected to licensing provisions and that the license may be cancelled if the licensee “fails to make beneficial use of the water.”

The bill states that all landlords must obtain a driller permit before sinking a borehole in their homes.

It directs persons who have excess supply of water to cater for their domestic needs to reduce the quantity to what they can consume.

Only authorized personnel may carry out routine checks to inspect water usage or water disposal on properties with the production of their identity card or other instrument or certificate of designation if so required.
Only those permitted under the Act are permitted to consume water.

Now imagine for a second, the draconian powers a Federal Government Agency intends to allocate to itself when we have a Land Use Act that even gives Water Resources Management Powers to the State Government, if this bill was enacted, it will directly affect 20 States who get their waters directly from the River Niger and Benue across South-West and South-Eastern States. We would even begin to PAY BRIBE to get SPEEDY approvals for BOREHOLES drilling, such a travesty….

We would be REALISTIC in stating that the objectives of the BILL seem so nice on PAPER whilst the ASPIRATIONS are LOFTY but if this ACT had seen the LIGHT of day, imagine asking Nigerians to get a LICENSE to sink a BOREHOLE in a country where we don’t have an efficient or nearly comatose PUBLIC Water System – Nigeria has Federal and State-led Water Corporations that are meant to be an effective and efficient provider of CLEAN WATER yet all my LIFE as a Adult and Teenager living in Nigeria, I have resided in Neighborhoods where Water is basically provided by residents themselves.

If Government is going to make this work, it needs to be start by been TRANSPARENT about the terms of the LOAN it seeks to get from the World Bank that has made it desperate to pass a BILL that would basically commercialize our Water Resources IMMEDIATELY.

– Let’s not get it wrong, in developed climes, people pay for water per usage unlike here in Nigeria where we just use PUBLIC water without recourse to proper management but before Government can enact or enforce an act of parliament of this KIND, it has to revive its water corporations working with State Governments. State Governments should PLAY in lead role in Water Resources Management not our far-FLUNG Federal Government.

Once the basics has been ACHIEVED, a new draft that accommodates the INPUTS of all STAKEHOLDERS including Nigerians should be TAKEN into CONSIDERATION before it is reintroduced to the Floor of our National Assembly.

Kindly share your thoughts to policyposition@nigac.org

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Lilian Efobi and EldaDavid are the co-writers of this piece and they are both Resident Policy Fellows of the Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NIGAC) – A Technology-based and Digital Media-driven Public Policy and Evidence-based Research Think-Tank that simplifies Government Policy Positions at all times.

Thank you for reading.

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