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Senate Throws Out Buhari’s Controversial Water Bill

In a decisive move on Tuesday, the Nigerian Senate voted against the highly contentious National Water Resources Bill, 2023, after it was scheduled for concurrence on the order paper for consideration and passage.Originally presented to both chambers of the National Assembly by former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017, the bill aimed to transfer control of water resources from the states to the Federal Government, sparking widespread debate and disagreement.The proposed legislation sought to establish several bodies, including the National Council on Water Resources, Nigeria Water Resources Regulatory Commission, River Basin Development Authorities, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, and the National Water Resources Institute. These institutions were intended to oversee the regulation, equitable and sustainable development, management, use, and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources.The Senate’s rejection of the bill effectively quashed the controversy it had ignited among governors and federal lawmakers, particularly from the southern region of the country.During the reading of the bill for concurrence on the Senate floor, Senator Gabriel Suswan from Benue North-West invoked Order 85 of the Senate Rules, which stipulates that senators must be fully informed about the provisions of any bill under consideration for concurrence.Senate President Ahmad Lawan subsequently ruled in favor of the cited rule.Consequently, the Senate withheld its concurrence to the bill, aligning with those who opposed its contents.It is worth noting that the House of Representatives had passed the bill in 2020, despite suspicions expressed by members and the general public.Prior to its passage in the House, Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources, Sada Soli, had announced consultations with the then Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), as well as commissioners for justice and attorneys-general from all 36 states of the federation. The opinions received during these consultations were promised to be attached to the bill and distributed to all members.


Ademola Adeyemi

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