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.