Water bill hearing: SANs, others warn Reps against illegality

Friday Olokor,  Ade Adesomoju,  Oladimeji Ramon, James Abraham and Raphael Ede

Senior lawyers, socio-political organisations and civil rights groups on Thursday   described as unconstitutional,  attempts by the House of Representatives  to adopt the public hearing  it conducted in the eighth assembly for the Water Resources Bill.

The legal practitioners and groups such as  the  apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation,  Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the  Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere,  and the Middle Belt Forum, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said the National Assembly should jettison the plan.

Recall that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had in 2017 presented the controversial bill to both chambers of the National Assembly. The bill  seeks to transfer the control of water resources from states to the Federal Government.

The bill was not only rejected by the public in 2018, but it was also not passed by the eighth National Assembly, whose  members were divided over it.

But on July 23, 2020, the current Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, reintroduced the bill.

Despite the public outcry, he said a public hearing  was held in eighth  Assembly on the bill, adding that no fresh one would  be conducted.

He also lashed out at individuals and  organisations that were opposed to the bill,  saying inputs of civil rights groups were  taken in the eighth  assembly.

But  two Senior Advocates of Nigeria said  any attempt to reintroduce the  bill, which was shut down by the  eighth  National Assembly without subjecting it to a  public hearing,  would be  illegal.

In separate interviews with The PUNCH, the SANs, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, Dr Alex Izinyon, and Chief Sebastine Hon, argued that the eighth  National Assembly not being constituted by the same set of members of the current National Assembly, the bill must pass through all the stages of legislative process afresh.

Oyetibo said, “If the bill is being reintroduced afresh, they have to follow the normal procedure.  They cannot continue with the old bill because it is not the same members that constituted the former National Assembly and the new National Assembly. So, if the bill is being reintroduced, then they have to go through the normal channel of law making.”

Izinyon said procedurally  the end of a session of the National Assembly marked the end of the bills considered  by that session that had yet to become  laws.

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