Update: Public Outcry Stalls Moves to Re-Present Controversial Water Bill

Following public outcry over a plot to reintroduce it while most members are away celebrating Christmas, the contentious National Water Resources Bill, 2022, was not presented for debate in Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The House Bill with refence number HB 2024 is for an act to establish a regulatory framework for trans-boundary water resources in Nigeria, provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s inter-state surface water and groundwater resources; and for related matters. Sada Soli, who chairs the House Committee on Water Resources and represents Katsina State’s Kaita/Jibia Federal Constituency, is the bill’s sponsor.

Hon. Sada Soli

It was first introduced to the House in 2017 as a private member bill, but was thrown out after Nigerians vehemently opposed it on the grounds that it was an extension of the proposed 2016 Ruga policy, which sought to establish grazing reserves throughout the nation. 3 years later, the executive branch of government brought the bill back to the House in 2020 where it was again defeated. In July 2022, it was presented to the House yet again, and once again failed to scale through.

During the ongoing Christmas/End of Year festivities, a concerned lawmaker raised the alarm about a plot to fast track the bill’s passage on Wednesday December 28, 2022. Taking advantage of the absence of many House members, primarily from the South and Middle Belt who had left Abuja to be with their families during the festivities, the bill was to be surreptitiously read, passed into law and transmitted to Aso Rock for presidential approval.

Following an exclusive report on the matter by GuardPost Nigeria and West Africa Weekly however, a telephone and social media campaign by outraged members of the public prompted many lawmakers to hurry back to Abuja to block any attempt at re-presenting the bill during yesterday’s plenary session.

Tension In The House

There was a tense atmosphere in the chamber on Wednesday as an unexpectedly large number of House members arrived for what was supposed to be a routine plenary session to hear the report by the Committee on Appropriations on the 2023 Budget.

Some members of the House who spoke to our correspondent said the leadership was not comfortable with the public outcry over the plot to bring the bill back to the floor. Speaking to our correspondent in confidence, a lawmaker who was present at yesterday’s session said:

“For a long time, we did not have such a large turn out especially during festive seasons like we have now. We met the quorum and members waited inside the chamber long after we had passed the Appropriation Bill and the plenary ended. In fact, after the plenary ended, some of the members including the leadership did not leave the chambers immediately as it is always the case.

Members waited to see what would happen and after a while honourable members began to leave one after the other, we then left the chamber for the Sergeant-At-Arms people to close the doors.”

2023 Budget Passed

During yesterday’s plenary, the House passed the 2023 budget, raising the N20.51 trillion presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to N21.82 trillion. This followed the consideration and approval of the report by the House Committee on Appropriation.

Presenting the report, committee Chairman, Muktar Betara, commended the chairmen and members of the various committees of the House and lauded their efforts at keeping to the January to December budget calendar initiated by the 9th National Assembly.

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