By Chuks Ekpeneru
The controversy over the National Water Resources Bill is further widening the divide in the country at a time mutual suspicion is unprecedented.
The bill was rejected in the 8th Assembly, but has sneaked in this time around, fuelling suspicion of its intention.
However, Minister of Water Resources, Engr Suleiman Adamu, has said that when passed into law, the bill will protect all geo-political zones in the country.
He also said that it will better serve and provide for the enhancement of Nigeria’s water sector in line with global best practices.
Adamu said the bill has nothing to do with management or control of inland water ways as misunderstood by some people whom he said have not gone through the bill to understand its contents.
According to him, “This National Water Resources Bill when passed into law will better serve and provide for the enhancement of the Nigeria water sector in line with global best practices hence, it will be in the overall best interest of every citizen, region and section of the country.
“The National Water Resources Bill seeks to eliminate conflicting roles of sector institutions and create seamless synergies among the agencies with focus on professionalizing the sector and to encourage specialization.
Many, however, do not buy the argument alleging that it is a move by the Federal government that is inimical to the growth and development of the country.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, in a statement by South-south leader, Chief Edwin Clark, Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ohanaeze leader, Chief John Nwodo, and Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus accused the Buhari government of doing an obnoxious, vexatious and divisive overwork for herdsmen.
The group agreed with earlier comments by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State that the federal government was working on a pernicious agenda to permanently damage the country with unpopular measures such as the revived water resources bill.
On his own part, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka warned that Nigeria would be doomed if the National Assembly passes the National Water Resources Bill.
He urged Nigerians to resist the bill.
Soyinka said “the National Water Resources bill is a deliberate, flanking move towards RUGA colonisation.
“It must be resisted across board. No compromising or this nation is doomed since it will be resisted by any and all means.”
Earlier, Ortom, had called on the National Assembly to reject the National Water Resources Bill in the interest of the country.
Ortom said it was a “disguised land-grabbing legislation designed to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country.”
In similar vein, Yoruba One Voice (YOV), called the bill “another RUGA policy”.
“This is another version of RUGA policy to appropriate and grab land for pastoralists”, the group said.
However, no notable northerner has spoken in favour or against.
So in which Interest is the bill?