The Benue State Government has faulted the submission of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on the reintroduction of the Water Resource bill that all governors contributed to the drafting of the new bill.
The state government, in a statement signed by the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Terver Akase, and made available to newsmen on Sunday, described the bill which was reintroduced last Wednesday by Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli from Katsina State, as an insult to all Nigerians.
Akase queried why the same bill kept being introduced and reintroduce on the floor of the green chamber by legislators from Katsina State, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state.
“The bill which seeks to bring all water sources (surface and underground), as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies is anti-federalism and negates the right of Nigerians to their ancestral resources.
“The bill, in addition to its provisions which are grossly at variance with the Land Use Act, is disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country.
“The bill is another version of ruga and cattle colonies whose objective is to create grazing areas in the 36 states of the federation for herders and their livestock.
He dissociated Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State from the Bill saying he had nothing whatsoever to do with it and can never endorse such bill, stressing that, “Benue will not be part of the National Water Resources Bill! Our state should therefore be counted out of any discussion that pertains to the bill.
“We find it unconscionable, the Speaker’s mention of Governor Samuel Ortom as one of those who endorsed the bill. Governor Ortom’s stand against cattle colonies, ruga and the water resources bill has been consistent, and he won’t shift his position now! We wonder what the interest of the Honourable Speaker in the said bill is, that he wants to draft every Governor into endorsing the proposed legislation.
“Coming at a time when Nigerians are clamouring for proper federalism which entails devolution of powers to states and local governments, the introduction of a Water Resources Bill by the Buhari administration to deprive the people of their water resources is not only unfortunate but also smacks of insensitivity.
“Initiators of the obnoxious National Water Resources Bill are not only insensate but have also shown crass abhorrence of Nigeria’s unity as well as the current mood of the nation when people are slaughtered in their homes and even the clergy are not spared by terrorists. Shouldn’t the Presidency be more concerned about proffering a lasting solution to the orgy of killings across the country?
“The Federal Government doesn’t seem to be bothered that Nigeria is bleeding from the torture inflicted on the people by rapacious herdsmen who are bent on expropriating farmlands. All that matters to the present administration is to turn parts of this country into safe havens for the herders and their animals.
“Hundreds of people have been killed while homes and property worth billions have been destroyed. Sadly, all that Nigerians get to hear from their leader is to “learn to live with their countrymen”. Whose countrymen? Those killer herdsmen?
“We want to alert Nigerians again that if the National Water Resources Bill is passed into law, the rights of citizens over freshwater resources – ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and springs will be taken away with impunity. The bill will deny states and local government authorities as well as individuals the right to make use of the water in their backyard until they get permission from Abuja.
He further noted that the Federal Government’s insistence to take over the control of water resources across the country is tantamount to the suppression and enslavement of indigenous people of this country.
“We call on other State Governments to rise and resist the land and water grabbing bill currently before the National Assembly. This is an opportunity for all patriots to stand to be counted as those who resisted modern-day slavery,” the statement read in part.