By Hon (Rev) Francis E Waive
WATER RESOURCES BILL ANALYSIS
From a painstaking study of the bill along-side other research materials on the subject matter below are a few highlights of my opinion;
Primarily the bill seeks to among other things vest the rights of ownership, management and control and distribution of water on the federal government, including rivers and underground water, and by extension the river banks and river bed will become the property of the Federal government.
It has some provisions that are welcoming and warm, but because of the nature of governance and the tendencies to misuse powers in this country we cannot at this point in time properly handle this kind of a law without causing more harm than good.
Some very disturbing sections includes the following:
1. S. 129. No person shall: (a) use water otherwise than as permitted under this Act;
2. Condition for licensing in S. 103, is subject to the commission, the conditions are not expressly stated but left to the hands of the DG.
3. Charges for water use S. 104: the poor people in our communities who live by the river and depend majorly on the river for their source of water may be made to pay to fetch water from the river or to wash her cloths in the river, if it would be allowed.
4. Waste water discharge will be paid for S .97
5. License to use water will be subject to cancellation, review, variation, renewal etc, with conditions attached. S.105
6. The Act will give the commission the power to enter into any property, install establish or set up site for the purpose of carrying out water works.
The implications of the above provisions and several others on the country in general and our people in particular especially the riverine areas cannot be exhaustively stated, however a few quickly comes to mind
1. Uncertainty; the Act is Silent on so many issues leaving it to the commission to make regulations for the proper enforcement. Water is life and we don’t know the extent to which the law will be enforced, thereby putting the lives of so many in the hands of a few in power.
2. Increased hardship; especially for those whose life and livelihood is dependent on the water bodies near them, the level of impoverishment will no doubt increase.
3. Security Risks; with what is going on in the country, it will be risky if the Government is to take over all the rivers and the river banks to a certain kilometer, which it can then allocate to whoever it deems fit.
4. Some of our riverine communities that don’t have land mass but practically live on the rivers will be displaced by this Act and their cultural heritage taken over and give to foreigners or none indigenes of the areas or the highest bidder as the case may be due to the level of corruption in the country.
5. Conflict of Interest; the Land Use Act already vest ownership of all lands in the state on the state government, and if by this Act all rivers and the riverbanks as well as the underground water belongs to the Federal government, there will be conflicts at various points, in other words both laws cannot conveniently co-exist.
One will be tempted to ask what is the intention behind this law? Is it really for the general good of the Nigerian people as it state? How well has the various natural resources been managed for the general good? The oil from the Niger Delta Region has not positively impacted the life of the people from the Niger Delta and the one who bears the impact of the exploration activities.
The various River Basins which are currently under the control of Government has not been properly managed instead it has been grossly politicized, how then can the Government manage and control all the water bodies in the country.
In 1969 Federal Government took over Oil right to manage and distribute for the common good of the general public but we have seen how it has been used even to the detriment of all in the Country. If Water which is currently the most available and highly needed natural resources for human survival is put in the hand of the federal government to manage, we cannot imagine the impact it will have should it be mismanaged like every other sector of the country has proven to be.
In my opinion, the bill is of no immediate benefit to the generality of the populace at this point in time, plus we have not developed enough as a country to be able to properly manage all the resources we have to now begin to look at water. Water is the least of our problems as a country.
We should at this time if we must begin to look at other solid mineral resources such as Gold and the likes that has high economic value and capable of diversifying the Nigerian economy which is currently over-dependent on crude oil. Our economy is in coma and needs urgent resuscitation. It is common knowledge that the solid mineral resources are not properly regulated as the activities of illegal mining is a big business in some part of the country.