OrderPaperToday – The controversial bill on water resources earlier set aside by the House of Representatives in the 7th and 8th Assemblies has again resurfaced.
The proposed legislation re-introduced at Wednesday’s plenary by the House Committee Chairman on Water Resources, Sada Soli (APC, Jibia/Kaita) did not go down well with some members, particularly from Benue State.
The Benue lawmaker opposed it due to grey areas they claim may exacerbate the fears of their people.
A mild drama had ensued on the floor when Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila called on the Clerk to the House, Yahaya Danzaria to read out the short title of the Bill. A member, Mark Gbillah (APC, Gwer East/Gwer West) thereafter raised a point of order that the bill generated lots of controversies in 2021 and should not be brought back.
Reacting to the point of order, Gbajabiamila explained that the sponsor had assured that contentious issues in the former bill which bothered many people in the past have been addressed in the new bill.
He thus advised his colleagues to talk to their respective state Governors to get their opinion on how it affects their states.
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“I asked the Chairman the same thing this morning and he told me that the issues that were raised then have been addressed by all the Governors. Apparently, this new bill that all the governors of the federation both South and North participated.
I will take him by his word. We live in a diverse country and everybody’s sensitivity should be taken into consideration. The governors govern their states and they know what affects them. We should leave it at that, be very vigilant, talk to your governors and get their opinions on how it affects your state,” the Speaker explained.
In a swift response, Gbillah countered him; insisting that whatever the Governors may have agreed on, is not acceptable. He also added that he’s very sure his State Governor, Samuel Ortom didn’t agree to this.
“With all due respect to our governors, we are duly elected with the mandate in this House to represent the interest of our people. We are also coming from the premise of the constitutional powers we have.
Whatever the governors may have agreed upon may not be acceptable to us. It’s imperative that all of us collectively are given copies immediately of whatever this bill says.
The contentious issue is that the federal government will be taking ownership and possession of waterways. As much as the Governors may have discussed which is still subject to confirmation because my Governor in Benue state has not agreed to this,” he said.
Speaking in support of his colleague who is from the same state, John Dyegh (APC, Gboko/Tarka) said Governors can’t decide for lawmakers and must consult them before taking a decision on the Bill.
Responding to Gbillah, Gbajabiamila said, “He (Soli) specifically mentioned your governor’s name.” However, Gbillah insisted that governor, Ortom has not agreed for the Bill to be reintroduced.
While concurring that everyone’s voices must be heard regarding the Bill, Gbajabiamila however corrected the lawmaker’s assertion that he said Governors can decide on the way forward on the Bill.
He thereafter directed the Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hassan Fulata to ensure every lawmaker gets a copy of the bill to study ahead of the second reading debate.
“You can object to any bill at any stage. I get your point I’m not in any way saying the Governors will dictate to us. I’m saying that we work in a symbiotic relationship with the CEOs of the states and sometimes they are in a better position to know what’s good for the states.
We are here to represent people and our voices must be heard, irrespective of what the governors say. I hope we can work in tandem with the governors.
Chairman, Rules and Business, before this matter comes up for second reading, make sure every lawmaker gets a copy to digest, to consult wide. We cannot play the ostrich knowing that this bill almost threw this company in flames. Members should read it properly,” the Speaker added.
In his response after the Speaker’s ruling, the bill sponsor Sada Soli said he will attach needed information for his colleagues to read through, vowing that if issues arise again he will withdraw the Bill.
“I will attach the comments of the Governors Forum, Attorney-General, and that of the states too. They all commented. I assure my colleagues that I will not stand where a particular section of this country is shortchanged. If that happens I will withdraw the bill,” he said.