Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu, says the controversial Water Resources Bill 2020 clearly guarantees the right of every citizen to water.
At a media session at the weekend, Adamu said contrary to uninformed commentaries, “the Bill clearly declares that every citizen has a right to water.
“If you have your traditional pond, you have your borehole in your house, you have a stream passing by your farm, you are free to use it.
“If there is a stream in your village, you have every right to that water. Nobody can infringe on that right.”
According to him, the Bill is merely an amalgamation of four already existing water resources laws that have been in existence for a long time.
“They include Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004, River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap R9 LFN 2004, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N1100A, LFN 2004 and National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83 LFN 2004.”
He said the only two new things added are the Transforming Irrigation Management In Nigeria and the WASH Fund both of which are new innovations supported by the World Bank.
He explained Item 64, Schedule 2 of the Exclusive List already settled the question of jurisdiction over waters that cross more than one state.
“River Niger, for instance, crosses Kebbi, Niger, Kogi, Delta, Anambra, Bayelsa and Rivers. If Kogi says becomes solely in charge of it within its boundary, it means the rights of Anambra people will be infringed upon.
“If Kogi decides to create an industrial zone on the banks of the River Niger and they establish tanneries, metal factories and they are pouring lead and other poisonous materials into the river, all the states down towards the Atlantic Ocean will be affected.”
“There is nothing about power grab in it. It is common sense. This is what obtains in every part of the world.”
Adamu who was accompanied by managing directors of river basin development authorities, his permanent secretary and consultants stated “this is not a Ruga Bill, it is not a Buhari Bill, it is not a Fulani Herdsmen Bill.
“We are not creating any new agency, we are not infringing on any right of citizens, we are not taking one inch of land from anybody.
“Everybody knows that rivers don’t have a definite course. They change direction so it is difficult to define a watercourse as a physical thing the way you define a highway and so it is possible to enact a law to confiscate watercourse.”
The Minister declared the Water Resources Bill better than the Highways Act because, under the Highways Act, there is a specific width of the corridor that even the states cannot torch because it is reserved for future road expansion.
“There is nothing in this Bill that says one inch from the river bank will be ceded to the Federal Government. In fact, in any part of the Bill that reference to lands was made, it provides that acquisition will be in accordance with the Land Use Act.
“That means you must go to the state and the governor must grant permission for acquisition.
“Even under the River Basins Act, which we are now also putting in the new Bill as a section. All the land they acquire are on the basis of the Land Use Act.
“There is no provision for the Federal Government commandeering land anywhere.
“What we are regulating is large scale commercial use of water. And we are doing it already since the commission was formed in 2007.
“We didn’t start it, we met it. If you want to do any power project now, since the power reforms. Before you get power to license, you must get power license from the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission.”