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Lawyer condemns reintroduction of National Water Resources bill

By Silver Nwokoro
27 September 2022   |   2:36 am
The lawyer said he would lead a delegation of various ethnic nationalities to the public hearing in Abuja to discourage the lawmakers from going ahead with the bill.
Nigeria Senate

Nigeria Senate President Ahmad Lawan. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

A lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has condemned the reintroduction of the National Water Resources bill.

The lawyer said he would lead a delegation of various ethnic nationalities to the public hearing in Abuja to discourage the lawmakers from going ahead with the bill.

Omirhobo threatened to sue the National Assembly if it disregards his advocacy and pass the controversial bill.

He explained that the bill, which seeks to establish a regulatory framework for transboundary water resources in Nigeria and to provide for the equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s inter-state surface water and groundwater resources; and for related matters, is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.

He made the declaration during a colloquium organised by the Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation (MOF) for indigenous people within Nigeria in Lagos last weekend.

He noted that the Land Use Act, which is incorporated into the Constitution, had donated to state governors absolute power over land within their states.

Therefore, this position as entrenched in the Land Use Act, he pointed out cannot be taken away via the National Water Resources bill or through any other bill.

His words: “Under a federal system of government like Nigeria, the Federal Government does not have absolute sovereign authority over water. The Federating states have considerable authority to establish and implement water laws, policies, and programmes suited to their priority water concerns. State authority is especially paramount in allocating water rights.

“The National Water Resources bill is a further centralisation and undue concentration of powers on the Federal Government instead of the decentralisation and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the state and local governments, as is the characteristic of a federal state.

“If the bill is passed into law, it will give Federal Government exclusive dominance and control on waterways, which will further impoverish Nigerians in riverine states, who depend on waterways to generate revenue internally.

“The National Assembly may have the powers to pass laws on water from such sources, as may be declared by the National Assembly to source affecting more than one state. But it is limited by law to only issues of maritime, shipping, navigation, and defence.”

Omirhobo stressed that the bill, in its entirety, is inconsistent with the clear positions of the Land Use Act and Section 315 (5) (d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as altered), and therefore, to the extent of its inconsistency null and void.

“For Nigeria to progress, its government must without any further delay be courageous enough to restructure the country by encouraging the establishment of state police and the reversion of the country from a unitarism to true fiscal federalism as it was in 1963. Every state must be allowed to manage its natural resources and pay tax to the Federal Government,” he said.

Omirhobo called on the government to immediately dredge the River Niger and Oguta lake to be navigable and reopen, activate and develop the Warri, Calabar, Koko, Onne and Port Harcourt Sea Ports, to create jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country.