Fom Tony Osauzo, Benin
A legal practitioner and President, Ijaw Community Law Centre, Dotimi Tawari, has called on the National Assembly to throw the controversial Water Resources Bill recently re-introduced by the federal government into the dust bin, contending that if they allow it let go, it will deny Nigerians of their identities and ‘kill’ them.
Tawari who is also an environmental rights activist, spoke while enlightening members of the Edo State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Benin City on what the Bill entails, explaining that the Water Resources Bill is an indirect way of introducing Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) and Cattle Colony.
He stated that rather than concentrating on true federalism, the Bill is anti-federal but unitary, pointing out that if passed into law, it will take Nigerians back to the old days of a unitary system of government where everything is concentrated at the centre (federal government).
He said when passed into law, the Act will automatically incorporate the Land Use Act of 1978, making every land owned by communities and state governments to be ceded to the federal government, explaining that part of the bill ‘Indicates that the Delta of River Niger and everything therein belongs to the federal government.
“This is an indirect way of re-introducing RUGA and the cattle colony. When RUGA was introduced, it died; when the cattle colony thing came it also died. This is the last thing they want to do.
“Section 158 reads: Any natural or man-made water, flowing or standing on the surface of the land, including rivers, lakes, reservoirs, lagoons, wetland, swamps, creeks, deltas, etc belongs to the federal government. So with this, everything is gone”, Tawari stressed.
He alleged that because of the ulterior motive behind the bill, it was sneaked into the National Assembly through the back door and was not made public until some members including the Speaker of the House of Representatives insisted that it should be made public.
“They are amending the Nigerian constitution without us knowing. This is because, by extension, the Land Use Act of 1978 is incorporated into this Bill”, the Lawyer cum activist said adding that if Nigerians allow the Bill to see the light of the day “it will be more powerful than your state government; it is like creating another country entirely inside a country.”
Consequently, he urged media practitioners to rise to their social responsibility of enlightening members of the public on the ills of the Bill.
“That is why we say members of the press must rise to its responsibility. Your constitutional role is to be a watchdog, so make sure this Bill does not see the light of the day because if it does, we have lost our identities completely,” he insisted.