The Nigeria Labour Congress has warned the National Assembly not to resurrect or cause to be passed into law the National Water Resources Bill because of the danger it portends to national unity.
In a statement signed by the NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, the group said although the National Assembly is constitutionally vested with law-making, they should not ambush Nigerians.
“Information in the public domain has it that the National Assembly leadership is working surreptitiously with vested interests outside the Assembly anxious to pass the bill without due legislative process,” read the statement dated August 28.
“We equally warn against legislative abuse or betrayal of Nigerians as this is what it will amount to if the bill is passed or caused to be passed without public engagement and scrutiny. Already, the sentiments expressed against this bill are too grave to be brushed off.”
The labour union’s warning came just as Nigeria’s Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, criticised the attempt by both the executive and legislative arms to “sneak” the bill into law.
Civil society groups across the country have also criticised the bill, saying it would breach citizens’ right to water. Controversial parts of the law include the part that vests ownership of water bodies on the federal government and the part that mandates citizens to get federal permission to drill bore holes in their homes or businesses despite the inability of the government to provide potable water to majority of its citizens.
The National Water Resources Bill failed to secure a concurrent passage by both Houses in the Eighth Assembly. In the current Ninth Assembly, it has passed second reading in the House of Representatives and has been referred to a House committee.
In his lead debate in the Lower House, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the bill would “trigger change.”
But the NLC said the bill was rejected in 2018 “with very good reasons.”
“Although there is no law against re-presentation of a killed or rejected bill, however, given the strong sentiments expressed against this bill from practically all sections of the country, then and now, we would strongly advise that this bill should not be resurrected.
“We have in our hands at the moment enough challenges to court fresh and costly controversy.
“Although legislation is one of the three constitutional functions of the National Assembly, it should not be a licence to dictatorship but a representation of the will, aspirations and sensitivities of the populace. In light of this, we state unambiguously that the National Assembly should listen to the voice of reason by resting this bill.”