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Groups urge National Assembly to reject reintroduction of controversial water bill

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The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have urged the National Assembly to reject attempts by promoters to reintroduce the National Water Bill with the same contentious provisions.

Both groups took the position following a statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari in the media last week, calling on the National Assembly to quickly pass the controversial bill.

Buhari, who spoke at the Zobe Regional Water Supply Scheme in Katsina State, was in the company of the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Hussein Adamu, who has been the arrowhead for passage of the piece of legislation.

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Members of the House of Representatives stepped down the bill in September 2020, following their findings that its backers did not follow due process. 

Before then, AUPCTRE, CAPPA and other bodies across the federation and prominent personalities, including Prof. Wole Soyinka, had written Buhari, imploring him to withdraw the document and begin a fresh process that involves wider consultation with Nigerians before getting to the two chambers of the federal legislature.

In a joint statement issued yesterday in Lagos by Director of Programmes, CAPPA, Philip Jakpor, the organisations said the President’s remark was disturbing and contradicted what Nigerians wanted.

AUPCTRE’s National President, Benjamin Anthony, remarked: “We are shocked that the President is throwing his weight behind a bill that would further fracture the unity among Nigerians and impugn on the rights of its citizens.

“Nigerians said it when the bill was being debated and they are saying it again: The National Water Bill is obnoxious, anti-people and unacceptable.”

Anthony, therefore, urged government to jettison the proposed law and explore democratic decision-making processes in addressing water shortages in the country.

On his part, CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, submitted: “It is unimaginable that even with the popular rejection of the anti-people bill by a broad spectrum of Nigerians, the President is still bent on re-presenting it at the National Assembly.

“Nigerians are however resolute that a bill, which does not have their input and consent, will not be foisted on them.”

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Oluwafemi said acceptance of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) by federal and state governments was the cog in the wheel of sustained public investments in the water sector and cautioned that government’s quest for privatisation would only deprive communities of their basic human rights.

He added that the President’s remarks supporting the bill reflects an unacceptable disregard for the wishes of Nigerians, while the PPP would ultimately lead to rate hikes, job losses and poor quality service as examples across the globe had shown.

The groups said that the government should discard the obnoxious National Water Bill and begin a fresh community-based process, which will entail consultation with Nigerians from the initial stages through the entire process at the National Assembly.

They also urged the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to respect the genuine wishes of Nigerians as expressed through the media and other public channels and stop promoting the bill.

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