Northern, southern senators square up over Buhari’s water bill

OrderPaperToday – The Senate was on Thursday divided along regional and ethnic lines during debate on the National Water Resources bill from President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki who appeared eager to immediately pass the bill realized that it contained several contentious issues after contributors canvassed regional positions.

A major contention was the ownership of water that passes through more than one state and is placed under “the use, management and control of the federal government.”

The bill also grants the “Federal Government, acting through the Minister power to protect, use, developed, conserve, manage and control water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner for the benefit of all persons.”

It did not go down well with senators whose states have water as their natural resource.

Sen. Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos) noted that his state is currently having court issues with the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) over water ways.

According to him, matters like these are supposed to be left for the state to control “but what we find is that NIWA has extended its federal might in so many ways in controlling the navigation and all other things you need to get before you can do anything in all those areas.

“There would be need for us to identify those rivers that belong to the Federal government as well as the state if we want to avoid any problem.”

Concerning the identification of rivers that belong to the Federal Government, Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), stated that it is hard to give a clearly defined boundary for water. That even the National Boundary Commission has not been able to delineate the boundaries of each state, talkless of water limits.

Senator Adeola Olamikan (APC, Lagos) held similar view expressing his reservation on the bill and advised that a committee be set up to “look into the nitty-gritty in line with the constitution and the existing act we have in hand so we can compare these two and we can be in unison while we consider these bills.”

However, Senator, Binta Masi (APC, Adamawa) argued that there are federal roads which each state benefit from and wondered why there would be an “issue about a small river in a state that has to pass through another river in another state and we are thinking that the federal government wants to take over.”

Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe) argued that, “the whole idea is that the federal government is the custodian of all the water resources in the country but of course you know if it is within you area, you can use it but of course will be guided.”

Giving his verdict, Saraki noted that although he had a lot of enthusiasm in passing the bill, he feels “it is important we carry everybody along.”

He then instructed the Chairman and Vice chairman on Water resources, the Chairman and Vice chairman of Judiciary as well as the Director of Legal “to go back and look at this especially where there are constitutional issues and report in one week.”

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