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Water bill not meant to give president absolute control – Rep Doguwa

Alhassan Ado Doguwa is the House Leader, House of Representatives. In this interview, he spoke on the controversial Water Resources Control Bill resubmitted to the…

Alhassan Ado Doguwa is the House Leader, House of Representatives.

In this interview, he spoke on the controversial Water Resources Control Bill resubmitted to the 9th House.

 

Can you tell us more about the Water Resources Bill that some are saying has been smuggled into the House?

To be honest with you nothing was smuggled, I can confirm to you that the bill is currently before the House of Representatives.

It was a simple bill that was initiated by the Executive through the Ministry of Water Resources but is now under the House Committee chaired Hon Sada Soli Jibia.

It followed all the usual legislative processes.

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Before the House went on recess, the bill had passed the first and second reading and was referred to the House Standing Committee to conduct a public hearing on it.

 

Why did the bill fail to scale through in the 8th assembly?

I think it failed because there wasn’t enough time to pass it.

It came at the closing hour; whether you passed it or not, the assembly was winding off.

It was not because some people or groups were against it at that moment, it just naturally died down.

I don’t know why people from the South are against the bill.

 

What is their problem about the bill?

Some people are complaining, pressure groups from the Middle Belt, Afenifere and others including NLC are saying the bill gives the president absolute power to control water resources.

Some allege that it gives herders undue advantage over farmers.

In my opinion, it will be naive for anyone to see it that way.

The Water Bill is intended to rejuvenate the sector.

Most of the amendments therein are to make the bill cope with global practices.

We want to globalise the sector.

It is not that it has given the president unilateral power or to have much control over the water sector.

Being an essential thing, who do you think should provide water?

It is not about control, mostly, it is about the provision of water; for portable water to become more accessible down the ladder to the commonest of the common on the street.

That is all about the interest of the law.

 

When will the House organise a public hearing to hear from those individuals and groups opposing the bill?

The bill was taken for second reading, but immediately after it was passed to the committee.

It is left for the committee, which is a standing committee of the House, to organise ways and manner to go about their public hearing.

And now that public hearings have been suspended as well as investigations, certainly that committee must wait until we resume.

As far as the House is concerned, we will not shortchange anyone; everyone, whether for or against it, have every right to participate in the public hearing and come up with whatever value they want to add to the process of passing that bill.

But all the talk that the bill favours one side of the country against another is naive.

That is not our intention.

 

Some of your colleagues from the Senate have said they will not support the bill when it reaches the Senate. What is the position of the House?

As the Leader of the House, I will not speak on speculations.

If there is any opinion from the senators, I should not pick that sentiment on the streets.

So, we now wait until it is passed in the House and is transmitted for concurrence in the Senate.

So, whatever position they take, we will now be guided by it.

And naturally, if it the bill goes to the Senate and failed, that means it died naturally.

Just like if a bill comes to the House and failed, it died naturally in the spirit of the bicameral existence of the institution.

I will assume and think about my senator colleagues that whatever we are doing is in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our people.

So, if the Senate is having anything against this bill, we will wait until it is transmitted to them and we will be guided by the action they take.

I hope you understand. It is a simple arithmetic.

What we do is with the best of intentions and we expect our colleagues in the Senate to always concur with us in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We are not fighting each other.

We are working to complement each other and sometimes we relate informally and we work on the same page, especially with the kind of leadership we have today where you have a Senate leader and the Senate president.

The bill was from the executive initiated from the Ministry of Water Resources and it is being taken by the Committee on Water Resources.

There is nowhere we have given the presidency latent control on anything.

This bill is on the area of provision of water to the commonest person.

Unfortunately if you talk of providing any amenity or any resource to the commonest person, the notion is always that, it is for the northerners.

But if you say you want to provide water from house to house, does that mean Fulani, ruga or any such thing?

Or for example, if there is a clause in the bill which placed the responsibility of providing water for animals like cattle, then it will be ruga or such thing?

 

Are you trying to amend it because of some of the concerns raised during the last assembly, so that majority of the people are happy with it?

Of course, a bill of that nature has to be subjected to public hearing.

Certainly the committee will open up for the diverse opinions from relevant stakeholders and whatever they are likely to come up with as long as that will impact on the quality of the law, the House Committee on Water Resources will have to accommodate it and present it in their report.

The report will be laid on the floor of the House for consideration.

A bill of this nature is not singlehandedly made.

We certainly have to take inputs from stakeholders.

So, if anybody has an issue with it, let him join the committee during the public hearing and come up with whatever he wants.

What I want to make very clear to you is that in the 8th assembly, I was the Chief Whip and the reason this bill failed had nothing to do with the inherent intent of the bill itself.

The bill failed because the time was against it.

It was the time factor.

So now that it is being brought up for consideration does not mean we are trying to push a bill that is not popular.

I want to believe the National Assembly and the president are doing what they are doing in the best interest of the country.

I would be surprised if anybody will come up with a cogent reason that it should not be sent to the National Assembly for reconsideration.

So as far as I am concerned, we have not received any significant opposition, the president assented to it as such.

If we have other reasons in the years ahead, then fine we can look at it and update in line with global best practices and not on the basis on sentiments.

 

You are aware of what is happening with the CAMA. After it was passed, some groups including the Christian Association of Nigeria, are now expressing concern that they were not taken along when it was being prepared, and they are thinking of coming back to the National Assembly to ask for the law to be reviewed. How sure are you that things like this will not happen with this water bill?

When you are operating Constitutional Democracy, whether you like it or not, you have to play by the rule.

If there is a process that was meant for any section of the society to come and contribute to and for whatever reason they failed to contribute, that means they played with their right.

So, no one can now come round and compel us to bring back a law simply because he did not take the opportunity given to him to participate in the process.

It has been done.

The president has assented to it.

So, I don’t think, that is the way to go about it.

 

As representatives of the people, if some of your constituents say they are not comfortable with the bill because it infringes on their freedom of association or religion, don’t you think that will be enough reason at this stage to reconsider?

In the first place, I don’t even think we have that reason.

Most of the reasons they are now advancing are sentimental reasons.

They are sentiments and in most cases coming out as a result of ill information.

Many people making noise about the CAMA Bill are not well informed about the contents and context of the law as it was passed.

So many of them are acting out of ignorance.

I am sorry to say.

But ultimately, if any of our members in the House of Representatives or anybody out there, any Nigerian comes up with a better process.

That is why I said in the first place, that this is a system that has laid down rules and regulations and whoever wants to achieve something he has to play by the rule.

As far as I am concerned and as far as I know, the process through which CAMA was passed has not breached any procedure of lawmaking.

So if anybody has anything against it, there are routes for him to follow.

And that is through the normal process of law and legislative process, and we will consider it.

You know laws are dynamic; we will continue to see from the light of global development and global practices and for now, I think there is nothing so critical that will warrant an immediate reconsideration of the CAMA law and the context in which the law was passed.

If you are talking about Islam, we have good Muslims on the floor of the House of Representatives.

So also in terms of tribal or ethnic representations, virtually every component of our social or economic system is being reflected on the floor of the House and by extension in the Senate.

So, whatever comes to us for consideration, all these things, all these facets would have been considered and at the end we found it fit for national development.

So, I don’t think we can have anybody that can be more patient than the number of Christians that we have on the floor of the House.

We can also not have somebody that will be more of a Muslim than the number of Muslims we have on the floor of the House.

We are also mindful of our faith.

We are mindful of where we come from.

We are mindful of our geopolitical backgrounds as a federal system of government.

When you are operating a system that has to do with a federation, all those sentiments must be presented whether you like it or not and must be taken into consideration and at the end, whatever comes out of the National Assembly as a law, must be a reflection, a true reflection of the interests of our people.

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