An Ijaw professional group has joined the legion of Nigerians condemning the National Water Resources Bill currently before the House of Representatives, and urging the lawmakers to jettison the bill in the interest of national unity and cohesion.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a one-day virtual conference of the group on the bill, the Ijaw Nation Professional Group (INPG), resolved to use available contacts to stop the bill from progressing beyond its present stage at the lower chamber of the National Assembly, despite pressures from the Presidency to pass it into law.
The communiqué was signed by Arc Denzil Amagbe Kentebe (INDG), Comrade Joseph Eva (IMG), Mr. Elaye Otrofanowei (IPA), Mrs. Ebiere Fumudor (ELA), Barrister Efiye Bribena (IEF), Mrs. Rosemary Oduone (IWC), Barrister Iniruo Will (EMBASARA Foundation), and Dennis Banigo (Convener INDG).
The communiqué reads, “The Ijaw Nation Development Group (INDG) on 20th September, 2020, in collaboration with the other Ijaw organisations, including, Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA), the Ijaw Elders Forum (IEF), the Ijaw Nation forum (INF), the Ezon Ladies Association (ELA), Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Embasara Foundation as well as individuals and representatives of Izon Organisations globally, arose from its Virtual Conference that critically examined the National Water Resources Bill 2020, currently at the National Assembly.
“The Conference observed and noted the following: The re-emergence and pursuance of a National Water Resources Bill, which had, hitherto, been rested by the 8th National Assembly, due to widespread national opposition to its assent, but brought through the backdoor into the 9th National Assembly, leaves us but to wonder, why in the face of more pressing and critical national issues, including the debilitating Covid-19 Pandemic, widespread economic dislocation, rising energy costs, rampant and pervasive insecurity the presidency will still bring about, the ‘resurrection’ of this unprecedented Bill, and it’s urgent pursuance.
“The bill is, therefore, suspicious in context and content and quite evident that the process of emergence of this bill, lacked transparency and consultation with various stakeholders across the country. Thus, the due process of democratic law making is once again denied group participation or societal engagements, within a highly skewed history of resources governance in the country.
“That the Bill is a product of yet, another undisclosed and ill-timed agenda and an assault to the identity and existence of Ijaw people. As it is an attempt to further whittle down the powers of various federating ethnic groups in the country. Thus, the bill which attempts to repeal four other Water Resources Laws and consolidate them into a single legislation, such as River Basin Development Act Cap R9 LFN 2004 and Hydrological Services Agency Act, Cap N110A of 2004, as well as the National Water Resources Institute Act, Cap N83LFN, 2004, is inimical to the survival and aquatic livelihoods of the Ijaw people. As it has taken their right of ownership without their consent, and gives it to a federal commission, to now delegate licensing powers for commercial exploitation to states, for water resources owned by and found in Ijaw-nation.
“That the bill therefore, is an obvious impunity and outright disregard for basic principle of federalism, ownership and fundamental Human rights. More so, it is vexatious that the recent unguided comments by Hon. Sada Soli (chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources), to mention a few, tend to lend credence and give confirmation to the notion of a subterranean agenda.
“The conference further noted that, the bill is another backdoor ownership of resources, to further deny the rights of indigenous communities across the Niger Delta. We the Ijaw people will lose our lands and water rights to the presidency, if this bill is passed in its present form, and without regard to the ownership question.
“That Ijaw life is intertwined with water, and water is the very essence of our livelihood and survival. Water is synonymous to the air that has been polluted by oil companies, in collaboration with the Nigerian state. Yet, with a new bill that is an obvious intent to usurp the rights due to an autonomous federating unit; which should by the Constitution, hold the power to regulate the affairs of its people and the property within its territory.
“The conference also noted that, the double standards of the Presidency, is witnessed in recognising the rights of indigenous communities in the North, to mine gold and other minerals. But deny same to Oil and Gas in the Niger Delta region. This discriminating and fraudulent legislative polices, only continue to serve a few local and global business interest groups as our experience proves with oil and gas resources.
“The conference noted that, despite the deprivation of the Niger Delta States of their ‘minerals and mineral oils’ within their territories, the Bill now plots to take the only ‘Resource’ left for ‘the states to administer, for the benefit of their people. In addition, Section 64 of the Bill arrogates exclusive powers to the Central Government, to decide what constitutes ‘interstate waters’. While in contradiction, acknowledges that management and control of water resources within the boundaries of a state, reside in that state government. This clearly did not reflect the fact that rivers unify Ijaw people, and that Nigeria has balkanised the Ijaw people into seven states, thus, weakening their political and cultural hegemony.
“That whilst we consider the science (Hydrological and Geological) as well as the Law aspects of this bill, we note that the bill as it is, will greatly impact/distort our socio-economic wellbeing and livelihood patterns. Thus, we wonder why the Federal Government is bordered about legislating the Use and Control of Water, rather than creating framework laws that allow Ijaw people to effectively organize, control, manage and use their resources for the commercial benefit and social good of all Nigerians.
“The conference as well, observed that the National Assembly members of Ijaw and Niger Delta descent are in a knowledgeable position to speak up, in resistance to the promotion of a Bill that is an inference and a perpetration of an altruistic and systematic invasion against Southern Nigeria by the Presidency. More so, the passage of the bill, will adversely affect the fundamental human rights of Ijaw people, and her generations of children yet unborn. Should our assembly members continue to be complacent in the face of brazen confrontation?
“That the Ijaw nation has suffered marginalisation and deprivation in various forms, despite being the ‘cash cow’ of the nation, via its oil reserves. In the face of all these, they have remained a calm and peaceful people. However, it must be noted that peace does not mean acquiescence; and there are limits to peace.
“That, as a further show of its hidden agenda, especially for land grab. The bill fails to address the manifest deficiency in strategy, for development of ground water. Which as it were, over 80% of Nigerians depend on for clean and less polluted water. It therefore wonders why the rush”.
The Ijaw professionals also resolved that, “Ijaw Nation rejects the passage of the Bill in its present form, without it been open to public hearing, wide consultation and the fundamental concerns of Ownership, Control, Management and use in favour of Federalism, Human and Peoples’ Environmental Rights.
“Ijaw Nation is open and willing to engage, consult and negotiate, to reach a Bill for an act that protects her strategic interests, for the greater good of all Nigerians without sacrificing the Fundamental Rights Issues of Federalism, Ownership, Control, Management and Right to Use Including Sustainable use and Environmental Management.
“We call on the Nigerian State and the Presidency to emulate the practice of true federalism, as exemplified in India, Australia, Germany, Canada and the USA where water regulation is left for the States to formulate, within a framework set by the Federal Agency.
“We resolve to work with other Niger Delta and Nigerian Nationalities, to ensure that we protect our Nationalities and restore our Federalism as Nigerians from Unitary intrusion and control, by Hegemony and vested business and political interest,” among others.
Declare Buhari’s Seat Vacant, Owuru Urges Court
The candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) in the last presidential election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it to declare the seat of President Muhammadu Buhari vacant.
Owuru, who was among the four petitioners that went to tribunal to challenge Buhari’s re-election, in his fresh suit, sought for an order to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from “undertaking or planning any other election into the office of the President”, in 2023.
The Plaintiff, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/480/2021, maintained that Buhari is “an unlawful President that is illegally occupying the Presidential seat”.
It would be recalled that Owuru and his party, HDP, had in an earlier appeal they litigated up to the Supreme Court, insisted that the Justice Mohammed Garba-led Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, erroneously dismissed a petition they lodged against the return of Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as winner of the presidential election that held on February 23, 2019.
They specifically prayed the apex court to sack Buhari on the premise that he emerged through an illegal process.
According to the Appellants, INEC, failed to follow condition precedents stipulated in the Electoral Act, when it unduly postponed the presidential election that was originally fixed for February 16.
The HDP claimed that its candidate, Owuru, secured over 50million votes in a referendum that was conducted by both electorates and observer networks that were dissatisfied with the unilateral postponement of the presidential election by INEC.
However, in a unanimous decision, a five-man panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by Justice Mary Odili, struck out the appeal for constituting “a gross abuse of the judicial process”.
Meantime, in the fresh suit, Owuru and his party argued that their suit against Buhari at the Supreme Court was inconclusive.
The Plaintiffs argued that the case was fixed outside the 60 days period that was allowed by the law.
Owuru asked the court to declare him the authentic winner of the last presidential poll, as well as, to issue an order for his immediate inauguration to take over from Buhari.
He prayed the court to declare that he is entitled to serve out a tenure of 4 years after his formal inauguration.
More so, the HDP presidential candidate, aside from asking for Buhari’s immediate removal from office, equally prayed the court to compel him to refund all salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected while he unlawfully stayed in office as President.
Owuru also asked the court to give an order that salaries, allowances and emoluments be paid to him from May 29, 2019, when he ought to have been sworn in, till date.
The Plaintiff further applied for, “An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the Respondents by themselves and acting through their agents, servants, privies and or proxies howsoever from any further organizing, undertaking or planning of any other election into the office of the President of Nigeria or any such other Presidential Election interfering, harassing and or disturbing the Applicant adjudged acquired right as unopposed and unchallenged winner of the original scheduled and held the February 16 Presidential Election thereof until the 1st Applicant unserved constitutional four years term of office is served pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit by this honourable court”.
Cited as 1st to 3rd Respondents in the matter were Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and INEC.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.
World Bank Report Exposes Buhari’s Lies, PDP Affirms
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the report by World Bank that 7 million Nigerians have been pushed into poverty in the last year, has clinically belied the integrity posturing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The opposition party said the World Bank report came in the face of the recent claims by President Buhari that his administration has lifted over 10 million Nigerians out of poverty in the last two years.
The PDP asserted that the report by the World Bank has further vindicated its position that President Buhari runs an uncoordinated and clueless administration that thrives on lies, false performance claims, deceit, and perfidious propaganda.
The statement added that, “Nigerians can now clearly see why the APC and President Buhari’s handlers are always in a frenzy to attack our party and other well-meaning Nigerians whenever we point to the poor handling of the economy and on the need for President Buhari to always be factual on pertinent issues of governance in our country.
“Unfortunately, it indeed appears that Mr. President enjoys living in denial while watching millions of Nigerians go down in abject poverty, excruciating hunger, and starvation as our country now ranks 98th out of 107 in Global Hunger Index under his watch.
“Otherwise, why would Mr. President claim that his administration has lifted over 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty while official figures even from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show worsening poverty rate with 142.2% growth in food inflation and over 82.9 million Nigerians being unable to afford their daily meals due to the failure of the administration to take practical steps to grow and protect the food sector?
“Under President Buhari, Nigerians are now subjected to the worst form of poverty and hardship, with collapsed purchasing power, occasioned by a voodoo economy management that has wrecked our productive sectors and pummeled our naira from the about N167 to a US dollar in 2015 to the current over N500 per dollar.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. President will choose to always bandy fictitious figures and false performance claims, when he has, in a space of six years, destroyed our national productivity and reduced our country to a beggarly nation, a laughing stock and object of pity among the comity of nations.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note President Buhari and APC’s similar false performance claims in other critical sectors, including power, transportation, road infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, security, aviation among others, where the Buhari administration has been bandying fictitious figures with no tangible project to point at.
“Our party counsels President Buhari, his handlers as well as their party, the APC, to note that Nigerians have seen through their deceitful clams.
“The PDP, once again, urges Mr. President to end his false performance claims and get more competent hands to manage the economy before every Nigerian is turned into a street beggar.”
Amnesty Kicks As FG Pushes Social Media Regulation
Amnesty International has strongly opposed the call by the Nigerian Government to regulate the use of social media and online broadcasters.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had urged the House of Representatives to include regulation of Twitter in the National Broadcasting Commission Act.
The minister made the call at the public hearing on a bill to amend the NBC Act organised by the House Committee on Information.
“I will want to add, that specifically, internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in this because we have responsibility to monitor content— including Twitter,” he said.
Reacting, Amnesty International, in a tweet via its Twitter account, yesterday, kicked against the motion.
It noted that when social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the internet and limit access to social media.
It further noted that criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“When social media is regulated, authorities can arbitrarily have powers to shut down the Internet and limit access to social media.
“Criticizing the government will be made punishable with penalties of up to three years in prison.
“Regulating social media in Nigeria could be easily abused to punish critics of government policies and actions, and anyone who asks difficult questions could find themselves liable for ‘diminishing public confidence in the government.’
“Seeking a law to prohibit abusive, threatening and insulting behaviour is open to very wide interpretation. This section would pose a threat to critical opinion, satire, public dialogue and political commentary,” the statement added.
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