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Reps disagree over National Water Resources Bill

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Members from the House of Representatives on Tuesday conflicted over the National Water Resources Bill.

Members of the House, mostly from the southern part of the country and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, raised various legal and procedural issues on the bill.

Efforts by their northern colleagues to save the bill proved abortive as arguments by the PDP members and other opponents of the bill forced   the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to order  its withdrawal and reintroduction.

He said the controversial  the bill  should be properly  gazetted  according to the rules of the House.

The clash over the bill  began when a first-time member from Benue State, Mr Bem Mzondu, raised a point of order, under Order 6 Rule 1(2) and (3), alleging that his legislative privilege was breached as the bill did not follow the due process and that a copy was not made available to him.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, had moved a motion on July 23, 2020, calling for the reopening of 11 bills, including the water resources bill,  not passed by the eighth  Assembly.

Fulata had prayed that the bills be withdrawn from the committees they were referred to and considered by the Committee of the Whole, as the panels had failed to meet their deadlines. The motion was unanimously adopted.

In an interview on September 7, Fulata described the passage of the bill as a done deal, saying the process would not be reversed.

He said, “The bill can’t be stepped down because  the House has passed it already. The lawmakers that are saying that they will step it down or that it was introduced illegally is because, may be, they were not there on the floor of the House when the members were given the opportunity to look at the bill not once or twice. Remember it was passed by the eighth Assembly.”

But on Tuesday, Mzondu, a PDP  member, recalled that on July 23, 2020, the House revisited the bill without following the standing rules. “I was deprived of my legislative privileges of sighting a gazetted copy of the National Water Resources Bill,” he said.

The lawmaker added that he was denied being part of the legislative process on the bill, noting that while the rule says new bills must be gazetted for consideration and the old ones abandoned by the previous Assembly must be re-gazetted, he could not find any document showing that the water resources bill was gazetted.

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