Water Bill to Bring Back Ruga — South, Middle Belt
Some regional political pressure groups including Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum, and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, have opposed the plan to revisit the Water Resources Bill by the Senate. They described the plan as “internal colonialism and another ‘Rural Grazing Area in disguise.”
There are strong indications that the Federal Government may soon re-introduce the controversial bill, which was rejected by the 8th Senate.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had last Monday hinted that the National Assembly would work out an arrangement to re-introduce the bill, which seeks to concentrate the control of water resources around Rivers Niger and Benue which cut across 19 states, in the hands of the Federal Government.
However, senators in the 9th National Assembly are divided over the plot to reintroduce the bill, which aside from making the Federal Government to be in control of water resources, would also make lands around the water resources to be taken over by the central government.
The affected states are Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Edo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Plateau and Kebbi.
Lawan specifically called on the Executive to re-present the bill to the National Assembly for instant legislative approval.
But the spokesperson for the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, alleged that the planned re-introduction of the bill was part of the agenda of a section of the country to dominate the rest.
Odumakin said, “The Senate is working to discredit itself as a rubber-stamp assembly and going overboard about the execution of the domination agenda. They should be very careful.
“The bill in the 8th assembly was shut down, but now they have a rubber-stamp assembly in place. It is RUGA in disguise; the other day, the Senate President was calling for the amendment to the Land Use Act; it is part of their internal colonialism agenda. They (FG) have not initiated one thing that could unite Nigerians.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Middle Belt Forum President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, warned against the re-introduction of the bill, stating that it was dropped by the 8th National Assembly because it saw the inherent dangers in the bill if passed into law.
He stated that the bill, just like the RUGA initiative, was meant to hand over the waterways and surrounding lands to Fulani herdsmen, thereby dispossessing communities of their ancestral lands.
Pogu said, “We condemn it in totality. The 8th Senate saw the dangers and refused to pass the bill. The bill if passed into law would not only take the waterways, but also the lands around the waterways and rivers.
“Already, there are so many communities that were created deliberately around the rivers and waterways and many of the inhabitants are not Nigerians.
“It is just like the RUGA programme. It is meant to take over lands and deprive communities of their ancestral lands and the Federal Government, as in the case of RUGA, would give these to Fulani herdsmen and therefore compound our (security) crisis.”
He admonished lawmakers from the Middle Belt region and other parts of the country to shoot down the bill whenever it was revisited in the National Assembly.
Also, the PANDEF National Secretary, Dr Alfred Mulade, who said the water bill would divide and further jeopardise the nation, emphasizing that it portended grave danger for the Niger Delta region and the southern part of the country.
“The proposed bill will further encroach on the land and other timeless heritage of the Niger Delta people. It is a strategy for dispossession,” he alleged.
The President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Mr Eric Omare, also opposed the reintroduction of the bill, saying it is against the spirit of federalism.
He said, “The proposed bill is anti-federalism and it is also against the corporate existence of peace and security in this country. As a people and as an organisation, we are vehemently opposed to the reintroduction of that bill for whatever hidden agenda. We warn against its being passed into law.”