No To Waterways Bill


At a time when well-meaning Nigerians, regional blocs and federating states are clamouring for the restructuring of the country, the recent Executive Bill christened Water Resources Bill, now before the National Assembly (NASS), is to say the least, condemnable, provocative and unacceptable.
Arguably, the Waterways Bill appears to be the most contentious and controversial legislation initiated by the current administration since its inception on May 29, 2015.
Perceived by many as another ploy by the Federal Government to further alienate and deprive states and the people from their God-given natural endowments, the bill, if passed, would confer on the Federal Government the sole right to regulate and control inland waterways and resources therein.
The Waterway Regulation and Control Bill, therefore, evidently suggests the intention of the Federal Government to arrogate more powers to itself to the detriment of the component units.
Little wonder that the South-South governors, arising from a meeting in Port Harcourt, recently, roundly condemned the bill and urged the National Assembly to quickly throw the proposed legislation to the waste bin.
Briefing newsmen on the resolutions of the South-South governors, the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, described the bill as “anti-people” and implored NASS to consign it to the trash can.
We understand that the governors didn’t act in isolation, as other stakeholders and pressure groups, especially from the Niger Delta have all risen in unison to denounce the intention of the bill. The Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) particularly called for discontinuation of proceedings on the bill.
The Tide, indeed, endorses the position of the South South governors, IYC and other stakeholders in the region whose livelihood is largely dependent on marine resources.
It is sad that since the discovery of oil in the region over six decades ago, the Federal Government has been exploiting the oil resources to its own advantage, leaving the oil-bearing communities with little or nothing to show for their God-given resources. The region today is being plagued by under-development occasioned by oil exploitation and the consequent environmental pollution and degradation.
Now, with the proposed legislation, it means that the major means of livelihood of the Niger Delta people which is fishing and other aquatic activities will be jeopardised. This is unacceptable.
Regulating and controlling waterways from Abuja will not only affect the people’s only source of living but would also heighten restiveness and hostilities in the region.
The reasons adduced by the initiators of the bill, that such legal framework for control and management of water resources in Nigeria will provide for equitable and sustainable development, management use and conservation of the nation’s surface and underground water resources is, indeed, untenable and therefore, unacceptable.
We, therefore, implore the Federal Government to jettison the bill as it is anti-people. We particularly urge parliamentarians from the South South to ensure that the bill does not see the light of the day.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Niger Delta people live predominantly on marine resources. Any legislation, therefore, to regulate the sector from Abuja would negatively impact on their lives.