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Water Resources Bill Misunderstood By Critics – FG … It Is Ill- Motivated – Suswam, Ortom, Soyinka, others

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The Federal Government has declared it will go ahead with the Water Resources Bill.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed told reporters the bill was not designed to cause water wars in the country.

He said the bill is a panacea to likely water conflicts in the country and that critics of the bill have either not read it or might be mischievous.

According to the Minister, there is no hidden agenda behind the bill which he said is not a subterfuge reintroduction of RUGA.

Mohammed made the clarifications at a joint briefing with the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu in Abuja.

Lai Mohammed
Minister of Information


He said: “There is nothing new about the National Water Resources Bill. This is because it is an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that have been in existence for a long time.

These are:

– Water Resources Act, Cap W2 LFN 2004

– The River Basin Development Authority Act, Cap R9 LFN 2004

– The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (Establishment) Act, Cap N1100A, LFN 2004

– National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83 LFN 2004

“So, why are the laws being re-packaged as the National Water Resources Bill 2020?

“The answer is that they are being re-enacted with necessary modifications to bring them in line with current global trends as well as best practices in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

“The overall objective of this amalgamation is the efficient management of the Water Resources Sector for the economic development of Nigeria and the well-being of its citizens.

“The Bill provides for professional and efficient management of all surface and ground water for the use of the people (i.e. for domestic and non-domestic use, irrigation, agricultural purposes, generation of hydro-electric energy, navigation, fisheries and recreation).

“The Bill will ensure that the nation’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all persons.

“Critics contend that the Bill is aimed at taking the resources of a certain part of the country for the use of herders. In other words, the Federal Government is seeking to implement RUGA by subterfuge.

“We also want to state that the Bill is for the good of the nation, and has no hidden agenda whatsoever.”

Adamu said the bill was sent to all the states for concurrence without any object.

He said the bill predated the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said:” This was never a Buhari bill, it is a bill for Nigeria. It started 2008 long before the President thought of winning election.”

….Water Resources Bill illegal, say Ortom, Soyinka, others

Meanwhile, there have been a groundswell of opposition to the planned bill with some critics describing it as illegal and against the interest of certain sections and people in the country.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State recently described a report that the Federal Government in conjunction with the National Assembly plans to bring back National Water Resources Bill as a guise to grab land for herders.

Gov.Samuel Ortom


The governor, who noted that the bill was rejected in 2018 by the 8th National Assembly, urged the lawmakers to reject the bill in the country’s interest.

The bill seeks to bring all water sources (surface and underground) as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, the governor described the bill as anti-federalism adding that it “negates the right of Nigerians to their God-given resources.”

Ortom noted that Section 13 of the Bill, states thus: “In implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and groundwater resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.”

He described as curious, the reintroduction of the National Water Resources Bill, which was rejected in 2018 by the 8th Assembly, stating that those pushing for the passage of the bill at all costs have a surreptitious motive which is not yet clear to other Nigerians.

“The bill, in addition to its provisions which are 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 governor maintains that the bill is another version of RUGA (Rural Grazing Area) which objective is to create grazing areas in the 36 states of the federation for herders and their livestock.”

He commended socio-cultural organisations such as Afenifere, Ohaneze and Middle Belt Forum for speaking against the reintroduction of the bill at the National Assembly.

Ortom urged federal lawmakers “to act as true representatives of the people for the sake of posterity and to remember that the destiny of the country lies in their hands.”

Professor Wole Soyinka also advised Senators and Members of the House of Representatives to “toe the path of honour by rejecting the National Water Resources Bill like the 8th Assembly did,” the statement read in parts.

The Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka also frowned at the attempts by the Federal Government with the connivance of the National Assembly to return the National Water Resources Bill rejected by the public in 2018.

Soyinka, in a statement titled, ‘MLK’s mighty stream of righteousness,’ kicked against the return of the bill and the killing of some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB) by officials of the Department of State Services in Enugu.

Soyinka

He said: “A roundly condemned project blasted out of sight by public outrage one or two years ago, is being exhumed and sneaked back into service by none other than a failed government, and with the consent of a body of people, supposedly elected to serve as custodians of the rights, freedoms and existential exigencies of millions. This bill, the Bill on National Water resources 2020 is designed to hand Aso Rock absolute control over the nation’s entire water resources, both over and underground.

“The basic facilitator of human existence, water, forget for now all about streams of righteousness! is to become exclusive to one centralised authority. It will be doled out, allocated through power directives from a desensitised rockery that cannot even boast of the water divining wand of the Prophet Moses. If the current presiding genius–and this applies equally to all his predecessors without exception – had a structured vision of Nigerian basic entitlements, Nigerians would by now, be able to boast the means of fulfilling even that minimalist item of COVID-19 protocols that call for washing one’s hands under running water! As for potable water, for drinking and cooking, let us not even begin to address such extra-terrestrial undertaking.

“What next for the exclusive list? The rains? I declare myself in full agreement with virtually every pronouncement of alarm, outrage, opprobrium and repudiation that has been heaped upon this bill and its parentage, both at its first outing and since this recent re-emergence. It is time to move beyond denunciations however and embark on practical responses for its formal deactivation and permanent internment. Let all retain in their minds that, from the same source that preached the “streams of righteousness” is encountered the promise of “no more floods, the fire next time.”

Dwelling on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement provoked by the racial killing of a black man by a United States cop and Martin Luther King’s speech to discard racism, the elder statesman noted that in the past few days he mulled over the watershed episode and was compelled to rephrase: Do Nigerian lives matter? Do farmers’ lives matter? Do IPOB lives matter? Do innocent lives matter? And most disturbingly: Do future lives matter?

He added, “One passage in Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” has leapt to the forefront as a warning that relates to that final interrogatory – do future lives matter? And it does so in a most literal manner, one that MLK could never have envisioned! It persists in echoing through the mind, reinforced by the recent killings of innocent humanity – mostly youths — in Enugu, by state forces, under the pretext – shall we presume? – of preventing secessionist agitations?

The Nobel laureate further said the promulgators of the obscenity, high and low, should understand that the placid waters they think to control unjustly and grotesquely, would turn to be Martin Luther King’s “mighty stream of righteousness” that would overwhelm and sweep them off their complacent, and increasingly loathsome sectarian and conspiratorial heights.

He said, “One polluted stream of human existence compounds the next. A violation here joins forces with its tributary of resentment there yonder, all seemingly unconnected. Martin Luther King’s streams of righteousness turn into a mighty torrent of repulse that overwhelms the perpetrators but, alas, takes down much else as collateral, irreparable damage. That is the only cause for regret and – restraint. Hence our duty to position that anguished question frontally, and call the world to witness our open propagation of that challenge: Do future lives matter?

“Let Buhari and his myrmidons ponder that question in the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds. They should not bequeath to future generations the harvest of the grapes of wrath!”

Besides Soyinka, groups including the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), rejected the water bill and advised communities to demand explanations from their representatives in the National Assembly.

It called on all the communities opposed to the bill which it said was meant to “grab land around waterways for cattle herders to use,” to organise community special sittings for their representatives to explain the meaning of the latest move and their roles in it.

On its part, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation said the bill would not only be rejected again but would also be challenged for its legality.

The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, said: “It is a tinder box that must certainly explode if they choose to embark on such a precipitous peregrination”.

Achi-Okpaga said: “There is no gain saying that the implication is as envisaged that the Federal Government will acquire the water ways from the people and keep same at the disposal of unwelcome visitors or aliens; a clear, unfair and natural case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“When Nigerians fail to resist such ungodly act the next would be an Act to take our compounds from us so that we begin to operate in oblivion.”

Senator (Dr) Gabriel Suswam

Also reacting to the bill, the Senator representing Benue North East Senatorial District, Dr. Gabriel Suswam has said that the proposed National Water Resources Bill is highly ‘unacceptable’ and must be vehemently rejected by the people.

Suswam warned that the Bill which is being proposed by the Federal Government has a potential to create a big problem for the country.

The former governor stated this in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area during the commissioning of newly constructed primary school by the Benue State Government in collaboration with the Universal Basic Education Commission, (UBEC).

Sen. Suswam assured that the bill which seeks to take over land and River to the Federal Government is highly is already dead before arrival at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.

“Though the bill is yet to come before the red chamber of the National Assembly, it will die on arrival in whatever form it comes because it is anti-people. For me, I cannot sit down as a representative of the people and allow the Federal Government take over the water of the people.

“The Land Use Act of 1978 clearly states that all land in a state belongs to the state government and it will require a constitutional review for this to happen,” Suswam said.

He lauded the milestone achievements of Governor Samuel Ortom in education, maintaining that he had continued to create a conducive atmosphere for the education sector in spite of distraction and in the face of lean resources.

Suswam appealed to the people to remain steadfast in supporting Governor Samuel Ortom and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), and avoid the fundamental mistake of 2015.

“I have been through this and I know what it means to embark on project of this nature at this time. What the governor has done is a no mean feat. In spite of distractions, he is forging ahead. I will stand with him till the end of his tenure because he is doing what is right,” Suswam stated.

Also the Middle Belt Forum warned the National Assembly against conniving with the Federal Government to return the bill, warning that if passed, it “would set Nigeria on fire”

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has rejected the Water Resources Bill which is presently before the National Assembly, adding that it has also instituted a legal action against the government with the aim of challenging the government’s excesses.

The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Middle Belt Forum (MBF) said the lands across the country should be under the control of the state governors in line with the Land Use Act.

According to a press statement jointly signed by PANDEF Leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Afenifere Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Ohanaeze Leader; Chief John Nwodo and MBF President, Dr Pogu Bitrus, SMBLF backed Governor Samuel Ortom who said the attempt to ‘secretly’ pass the bill was anti-federalism, adding that it negates the right of all Nigerians.

“The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum is once again impressed with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue for showing how a governor should be responsive to the plight of his people under repression with his latest statement on the obnoxious, vexatious and divisive overwork the Buhari government is doing for herdsmen through its devious plan on water resources bill.

“The governor insisted that the bill which sought to bring all water sources (surface and underground) as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies was anti-federalism and also negated the right of Nigerians to their God-given resources.

“He further observed that Section 13 of the Bill, states thus: ‘In implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and groundwater resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.’

“He described as curious, the reintroduction of the Bill, which was rejected in 2018 by the 8th Assembly adding ‘those pushing for the passage of the bill at all cost have a surreptitious motive which is not yet clear to other Nigerians.

“We agree totally with the governor….This country has lived in peace for several years with its lands vested in the governors through the Land Use Act which is part of the constitution.”
(With reports by The Nation)

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NPA vows to upgrade country’s maritime hub status

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Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation

In a statement issued on Sunday in Lagos by NPA General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Mr Olaseni Alakija, Bello-Koko disclosed this in Abeokuta, Ogun,  at the first retreat for the reconstituted board of directors.

The theme of the retreat was “Expanding the Frontiers of Service Excellence.”

He noted that investments in modern deep seaports would attract very large merchant vessels with the attendant multiple socio-economic benefits, as well as boost port revenue performance.

The statement said Bello-Koko disclosed that a lot had been done, especially in the last few months, to resolve most of the identified constraints to the efficient movement of cargoes to and from ports.

Such efforts, he said, were in line with the new direction and measures being put in place to actualise NPA’s aspirations,

“Nigeria accounts for about 70 per cent of cargoes imported into West and Central Africa and the country controls an impressive stretch of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Nigeria’s rich aquatic endowments and her border with landlocked nations makes development of deep seaports a huge potential revenue earner for the nation.

“The move towards earning the status of hub in the region is in line with our new vision statement.

“This was adopted at the recent NPA Management retreat with the theme ‘To Be The Maritime Logistics Hub For Sustainable Port System In Africa,” he said.

The statement said the acting managing director described the board retreat as very timely, as it signposts a unity of purpose and shared vision.

According to him, the vision is one in which the executive management works closely with every section, unit, department, division and directorate and embraces an all-inclusive strategic outcome for the organisation with the requisite buy-in of the board.

“In appreciation of this, I will like to crave the understanding of the board with regards to the executive management’s limitations in actualising some of our goals and objectives, which I am sure distinguished board members must have noticed in the course of the tour of ports that preceded this retreat,” he added.

The NPA boss informed the board that recent interventions made by the authority had led to significant improvement in terms of ship and cargo dwell time at the ports.

He, however, explained that some of the benchmarks which were yet to be achieved were dependent on “externalities and variables” that required concerted inter-agency actions.

He said that NPA, despite dogged efforts, has yet to optimally achieve the said benchmarks due to systemic administrative constraints and red-tape.

He enumerated the constraints as conflicting directives from the agencies operating within the ports and reporting to different supervising ministries with jurisdictional overlaps and duplications of functions.

He informed the board that concerted efforts were being made to expand NPA’s revenue streams, in addition to revenue from traditional port operations.

According to him, unlike the practice in sister Francophone countries where government funds the dredging of ports, the NPA was responsible for funding its.

This, he said, has put a lot of strains on its resources and capacity to invest in critical port infrastructure.

“We are facing decaying port infrastructure, for example, sections of the quay aprons or walls at the Tin Can Island Port, Onne, Delta and Calabar Ports are collapsing and require huge funds to repair them.

“With the increasing pressure to remit more revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the federation, it has become very difficult to have sufficient funds to attend to these decaying facilities.

“There is then the need to explore alternative funding sources outside the traditional port service offerings,” he stated.

Bello-Koko explained that the authority was blessed with prime real estates which could serve as alternative funding sources outside the regular budget.

“NPA has a lot of high value landed properties in Onne, Snake Island, and Takwa Bay that are designated free trade zones.

* Apapa Wharf

“They are mostly allocated but burdened by poor arterial road network and other infrastructure to make them attractive for private investments which would bring good revenue to the authority and the Federal Government.

“Management will need the support of the board to drive the process of alternative revenue sources to actualise the lofty aspirations of the authority,” he said.

The Acting MD also disclosed that management had opened correspondence with some multilateral financial institutions such as the French Development Agency (AFD), African Development Bank (AfDB), European Investment Bank (EIB) and Sanlam Infraworks (a Central Bank of Nigeria approved fund manager for InfraCorp).

He explained that these were all part of plans to access long term low interest credits for port infrastructure upgrades and expansion.

“In making the Nigerian seaports more business friendly, we have been able to deploy technology to address the perennial traffic gridlock that has been frustrating the conduct of business around the Lagos ports corridor.

“A software application code named “eto” is gradually restoring sanity to trucking business despite the initial teething problems and resistance by vested interests hitherto profiting from the chaos.

“The authority has accredited 33 private truck terminals within the Lagos area, in addition to the Lily Pond Truck Transit Park and Tin Can Island Port Truck Transit Park, to ensure trucks do not park indiscriminately on the access roads.

“The trucks would only be allowed to transit to the port after obtaining electronic tickets via the “eto” call-up platform and the authority is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to ensure enforcement and compliance with the e-call up system, he said.

He added that other solutions being implemented was the push to link all seaports to the national rail network, as well as optimise the use of the inland waterways through the transfer of cargo or containers via barges.

Bello-Koko said that currently the authority was streamlining barge operations to ensure efficiency, safety and cost effective cargo delivery for increased port revenue.

He said that the Bonny Seaport project in Rivers, boosted by two major railway projects, would massively transform the economic landscape of the country, particularly the South-South and South-Eastern regions.

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BREAKING: Former CBN Deputy Governor Obadiah Mailafia Dies at 64

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A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, has passed on at the age of 64.

Mailafia, who was a columnist with The PUNCH was said to have died at midnight after a brief illness.

The former deputy governor, who was the Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the 2019 election, was a known government critic and had advocated for public sector and exchange rate reforms.

Mailafia was born on December 24, 1956, in the Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

He later graduated top of his class at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1978 with a First Class B.Sc.Honours Social Sciences degree (Politics, Economics, and Sociology). He also has an M.Sc. from the same institution.

He subsequently won a French Government Scholarship to France, where he earned a Certificate in French Language and Civilisation from the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1985.

Mailafia later proceeded to the United Kingdom as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Scholar at Oriel College, earning a DPhil from the University of Oxford in 1995.

He joined partisan politics in 2018 amid the rising killings in Southern Kaduna.

Despite losing, he remained an ardent government critic and got into trouble with the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), when he alleged that a northern governor was a Boko Haram commander.

This earned multiple invitations by the Nigeria Police Force, forcing him to recant his statement.

In his last interview with The PUNCH, Mailafia said the refusal of the CBN to sell foreign exchange to bureau de change operators may not yield the expected result because corrupt bankers would frustrate it while the BDC operators were being shielded by a “Jigawa cabal”.

He had also lamented that Nigeria was operating a “dollarised” economy which was hampering economic growth.

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