…As house breach own rules, constitution, to push through legislation
By Tordue Salem – Abuja
The House of Representatives may be in a surreptitious plot, to ram through a bill that seeks to vest the power over all water sources across the federation, in the hands of the Executive.
The Bill when first introduced last year by the Presidency had generated controversy across the country, because of its desire to have the Federal Government take charge of lands and water resources in the country.
Some commentators, thought of it as a decoy, to advance the interests of the cattle-herding population.
Even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, had raised concerns over the piece of legislation on July 23, querying that “Is this not the same Bill that generated controversy in the Media”.
He, however, allowed it pass, when the Chairman, Rules and Business, Rep. Abubakar Fulata, convinced him otherwise.
The Bill entitled: “National Water Resources Bill, 2020”, was arbitrarily reintroduced in the Green Chamber, in breach of its rules, legislative convention and provisions of the 1999 Constitution before the House adjourned for a two-month recess on Thursday, July 23, 2020.
The reintroduced bill, though was negatived by the 8th Senate, headed by Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Rep. Yakubu Dogara-led 8th House, passed it.
But the unpopular piece of legislation hadn’t secured the concurrence of the Senate and the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari, before that Assembly elapsed in June last year.
Recall that on Thursday, July 23, 2020, the House had, referring to Order 12, Rule 18 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, 9th Edition, passed the National Water Resources Bill, 2020 and committed it to a “Committee of the Whole”, for third reading and final passage.
The presentation of the Bill was done by the House Chairman on Rules and Business, Rep. Fulata.
The referral of the said Bill to the Committee of the Whole, however, breaches Order 12 Rule 16 of the Standing Orders of the House.
Though the Order states that such a Bill from a preceding Assembly be gazetted, and clean copies, circulated, VANGUARD investigations found that none of that was done.
Thorough investigations with the Rules and Business Committee, and interviews with some members of the House who do not want their names mentioned, found that the Bill was neither gazetted nor clean copies circulated to members, before it was committed on Thursday, July 23 for passage, in breach of the rules of the House.
Order 12 Rule 18, states: “Bills passed by the preceding Assembly and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence was made or negatived, or passed by the Senate and forwarded to the House for which no concurrence was made or negatived or which were passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the President for assent, but for which assent or withholding thereof, was not communicated before the end of the tenure of the Assembly, the House may resolve that such Bills, upon being re-gazetted or clean copies circulated, be re-considered in the Committee of the Whole”.
Part 2, section 5(1) of the Land Use Act of 1978, states that: “It shall be lawful for the Governor in respect of lands, whether or not in urban areas, (a) to grant statutory rights of occupancy to any person for all purposes”.
Article 7, subsection 2 of the 1999 Constitution, says also grants State governors powers over land.
Highlights of Bill:
The Bill seeks to bring all water resources (surface and underground) and the banks of the water sources, under the control of the Federal Government, through its agencies to be established by the Bill.
Section 13 of the Bill, states that “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”.
Section 2(1) of the Bill, says ” All surface water and groundwater wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people”.
The Bill is primed for passage by the House, on their resumption from recess next month.