The Federal Government, Wednesday, said some Nigerians were using the Water Resources Bill as a political tool against the Buhari-led regime.
It also appealed to Nigerians to “allow the national assembly” to do its work on the bill.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, disclosed this to State House Correspondents after the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council meeting chaired by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The water bill has sparked another wave of controversy since it was recently re-presented for consideration at the National Assembly.
The bill, which raised dust in 2017 and 2020, has been interpreted by many Nigerians as a scheme to grab the waterways and reassign them to Fulani pastoralists.
But speaking on the issue, Adamu said the legislature would treat the bill the same way it had done to others in the past.
According to him, “Some people have chosen to interpret it the way they want it. Some people have decided to use it as a political tool against the government. But we are confident that we have wise men in the legislature that will do the needful, the same way they have been treating all other bills in the past.”
He argued that the government had adequately captured and addressed the interests of various groups and Nigerians must now allow the national assembly to deliberate on the issues raised.
“We have met with the Governors’ Forum. They appointed a technical committee made up of Attorneys-General to look at the draft bill. They came back with their observation before we even went back to say we sent these observations along with a redraft.
“When we got their observations, we appointed an environmental expert, Professor Olarewaju Fagbohun, SAN, to review the entire thing alongside the observations of the Governors’ Forum. He did that, put the necessary things in check and that is what we have re-presented to the National Assembly. So, we have responded to the needs and the concerns of everybody. So, I think now is to allow the National Assembly to do its work,” he said.
Citing some rivers in the South-East, he added that the land-grabbing narrative peddled in various quarters is false.
According to him, “People are talking about land grab where there is none. Some are even saying that they will not be allowed to use the rivers. I ask people, Oguta lake is in Imo State, Nike Lake is in Enugu State. Who has ever gone there to do anything? Has the federal government ever gone to interfere with what is going on?
“What we are concerned with as provided in the constitution, Schedule 64, are water resources that are interstate. That is, transboundary waters? That is what we’re talking about. And if the federal government is not the custodian as provided in existing legislation, Water Resources Act 2004, nothing has changed.
“All that we are doing is putting in additional value to these laws so that we can improve the management and efficiency of a sector.”