Lawmakers elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party staged a protest on Wednesday June 29, after Sada Soli, an All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker from Katsina state reintroduced the controversial water resources bill.
The bill which seeks to establish an act that would provide a regulatory framework for Nigeria’s water resources sector, was first introduced in the eighth national assembly by executive.
The bill bring water resources both surface and underground and the banks of the water sources “affecting more than one state”, under the control of the federal government.
After it was read on Wednesday at the red chamber, Mark Gbillah and John Dyegh, both Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers faulted its reintroduction.
I am aware that the matter listed for first reading — the national water resources bill — generated a lot of controversy within this honourable house and even across the country and some of us wonder why this issue is still being re-presented on the floor of the house, because some of us are not comfortably in support of this bill in the first instance.”
Responding to this, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila disclosed that he raised the same question with Soli, chairman of the committee on water resources.
Gbajabiamila however added that he was told that Governors made input and that the concerns raised may have been addressed.
“I asked the chairman the same thing this morning and he told me that the issues of controversy that were raised then have been addressed by all the governors.
“Apparently, it is a new bill that all the governors of the federation, both south and north, participated in this bill and I want to take him by his word.
“I believe that you raised a very cogent point. We live in a very diverse country and everybody’s sensitivity must be taken into consideration. It is subject to the participation of all the governors, because they govern their states they know what affects them and what doesn’t affect them.”
Gbajabiamila also asked members of the house to be “extremely vigilant” on the debate regarding the bill when it comes up for second reading.
Gbillah however kicked against this, insisting that the responsibility of lawmaking rests on lawmakers and not governors.
“It is we that have those powers, as enshrined in the constitution, to enact legislation that will be binding on this country.”
In response, Gbajabiamila said although he didn’t infer that governors should “dictate to us”, legislators work in a “symbiotic relationship with the CEOs of the states” who are, sometimes, in a better position to know what is best for the states.
After Dyegh, a lawmaker from Benue said “Governors are not legislators. They are not members of this parliament. Their contributions, as far as this matter is concerned, are irrelevant”, he was interrupted by Gbajabiamila who said he has already addressed the issue.
Gbajabiamila directed that copies of the bill should be made available to lawmakers before the proposed legislation is presented for second reading.
Commenting on the bill, Soli claimed governors, and state attorneys-general have contributed to the bill. He also said he will withdraw the proposed legislation if it is opposed by Nigerians.
“Let me assure my colleagues that the comments of the governors’ forum are attached to the bill and the comments of the attorney-general, which was requested by the federal ministry of water resources, are attached to the bill.
“All attorneys-general of different states and of the federation commented on the bill before they could address some of the issues that were raised on the floor.
“Let me assure my colleagues on my honour. I will not stand here to see a particular section of this country is shortchanged by the legislation of this country. If that happens, Mr Speaker, I will withdraw the bill in the interest of this country.”