An executive bill sent to the Senate seeking to concentrate the control of water resources in the hands of the Federal Government has divided senators across regional lines.
While northern senators support the bill and its objectives, their southern counterparts are opposed to it. Those opposed to it pointed out that the bill, if passed into law, would further centralise power and the nation’s resources. This, they pointed out, would counter the current move towards devolution of powers, which is currently skewed in favour of the Federal Government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had sent the bill to the legislature in 2017, while the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, presented the bill as it is customary for executive bills.
The proposed bodies, if established, will “provide for the regulation, equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources.”
The division occurred at the plenary on Thursday when the lawmakers considered the report on the bill by the Senate Committee on Water Resources.
The southern senators particularly criticised the move to create new Federal Government’s bodies to take over the responsibilities of the states over the water resources within their territories.
The controversial parts of the bill are contained in Clauses 1 to 5.
The passage of the bill however suffered a setback when the Senate dissolved into the committee of the whole to consider the 152 clauses of the proposed law.
In a veiled persuasion of the lawmakers, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said, “This bill has 152 clauses. This bill is the Leader’s first bill. This bill is the President’s bill, so we are going to have a very swift movement in passing this bill.”
Unlike the normal process of taking the clauses one after the other, the Senate President put Clauses 1 to 50 to a voice vote at once.