A Statement By The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) On The Disadvantages of Taking Control of Water Resources From States By The Federal Government as Proposed by The Controversial Natural Resources Bill, While Condemning The Illegal Directive By President Buhari on The Minister of Agriculture To Retrace What He Calls Grazing Routes To Be Handed Over to Fulani Herdsmen.
Against the will and wish of the Nigerian people, and in a manner that smacks of lack of respect for their feeling and sensibilities, the House of Representatives has gazette the controversial National Water Resources Bill, 2020 as preparatory to its second presentation for consideration.
From the avalanche of media reports, we gathered that the legislative instrument which has faced a stiff opposition from groups across the country, is to be pushed by the northern caucuses of both Houses of the National Assembly, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, associated herder groups, Ministry of Water Resources and mostly Northern leaders.
Recall that the Buhari administration had in 2017, forwarded the National Water Resource Bill to both chambers of the National Assembly with a request that it be passed into law. The wicked and shameful Bill seeks to give the Federal Government powers to take control of lands and water resources in the country. That is not all; the Bill also allows the government control of about three kilometres radius of the water bodies, meaning that it will control both the water and the land resources.
Expectedly, the Bill was rejected by many Nigerians; hence it was dumped by the eight edition of the National Assembly, but Honourable Abubarkar Fulata; the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules and Business not too long ago reintroduced the Bill.
The Bill was again rejected on Tuesday, September 29, by a majority in the Green Chamber, but the co-sponsor of the polarising piece of legislation; Abubakar Fulata (APC-Jigawa) who doubles as the Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business, quickly set back to business, to rework and reintroduce the Bill. Another key sponsor of the controversial bill is Sada Soli (APC-Katsina).
On the one hand, according to a report by Vanguard Publication of October 9, 2020, it was disclosed that President Buhari had charged Agriculture Ministers to rediscover grazing routes, saying that farmers will reap the benefits of government policies.
Perhaps, as expressed fanatically by the Fulani ethnic irredentists pushing the bill, government means well with the Bill and Policies but it is difficult to believe them more so with the trust deficit that has characterized present governance in Nigeria. Because of its antecedents, every move or pronouncement the government makes is treated with suspicion. And rightfully so because the current administration has turned democracy into COWTOCRACY WHEREBY ONLY THE SELFISH INTERESTS OF FULANI HERDSMEN ARE FORCED DOWN OUR THROATS AS NATIONAL POLICIES AND THE UGLY SCENARIOS BUILDING UP IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL AND OTHER STATES OF THE FEDERATION WHERENY FULANI HERDSMEN HAVE FORMED THE ILLEGAL HABIT OF OPENLY GRAZING THEIR COWS ON MAJOR HIGHWAYS CAUSING TRAFFIC NIGHTMARES TO NIGERIANS GOING ABOUT THEIR LAWFUL DUTIES.
In this particular case, the so called Executive Bill and Policy is allegedly expected to grant Fulani herdsmen and Miyeti Allah cattle breeders’ unfettered access to land and water resources in Southern Nigeria, which can only trigger national upheaval that could lead to avoidable loss of lives and property.
OUR POSITION AND DEMANDS:
In more ways than one, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari portrays itself as one that delights in going against the current, and in the process, fuel anarchy and courts controversy in a very volatile society that is ruled by ethnic and religious sentiments.
The gazetting of the offensive bill after it was roundly rejected and thrown out of the window by the 8th Senate means there must be a sinister motive for pushing it at all cost by the executive arm of government, which is using black legs and rubber stamp members and FULANI ETHNIC WARRIORS AND THEIR AFFILIATES in the current National Assembly to see it through.
Of major concern is that the Bill is structured in such a way that, if passed, it will give government unfettered access to water and land resources which, ordinarily, belongs to states and local communities.
Section 13 of the Bill provides that “in implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and ground water resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.”
Section 2(1) of the Bill caps it all, saying, “all surface water and ground water, wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people,’’ which means that the affected states will become no man’s land.
These, among other reasons, explained the controversy that greeted the Bill when it was first introduced, giving the impression that it was government’s tacit way of advancing the interest of the cattle herding population in the country. Recall that since 2015, Nigeria has witnessed several armed Fulani herdsmen attacks resulting in the killings of over 6,000 farmers and villagers all across Nigeria.
We recall that the same government once introduced what it called the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) policy, which was a controversial policy aimed at resolving what the government mischievously but wrongly called conflict between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and sedentary farmers in the Southern part of the country.
It is becoming, increasingly, clear to us and, indeed, to other well-meaning Nigerians that the Federal Government under President Muhummadu Buhari likes to fan the embers of anarchy and fuel controversy in a volatile society that is ruled by ethnic and religious sentiments.
It is unimaginable that the government of a country with a disturbing security situation could contemplate such a Bill that will separate the indigenous peoples, especially those in the South and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria, from their God-given water resources and make it a national cake which everybody and anybody have right to cut from. Such an action is always resisted.
Everywhere and anywhere in the world, land and water resources are owned and their exploitation controlled by states and local authorities. Nigeria is tending to be different from this grund norm because some people are pursuing parochial interests and looking at the country from a narrow prism.
The greater danger which the protagonists of this ungodly move don’t seem to consider is that, if allowed to pass, the Bill will consume states like Lagos, Rivers, Benue, Anambra, etc who have large water bodies in their domain. Such states will literally fizzle out.
In the light of the above, we join the clarion call on the National Assembly to return the Bill to the trash can where it had been before some ethnic jingoists exhumed it and are effortlessly trying to foist it on the rest of us. We call on Nigerians to resist the Bill for all it stands for and urge the government to desist from promoting acts capable of dividing the country or pitching the citizens one against another.
Relatedly, we strongly condemn and describe as illegal and preparation for civil war, the President’s directive on the Minister of Agriculture to retrace what he calls grazing routes to be handed over to Fulani herdsmen.
Fulani herdsmen are private entrepreneurs and therefore should build ranches to graze their cows and not for government to seize water sources and ancestral lands from the farmers to give to Fulani herdsmen including foreign Fulani herders.
We will not fail to seek legal action in addition to evoking a civil disobedience from millions of Nigerians if President Buhari does not stop his COWTOCRACY. The whole of Abuja is filled up with cows grazing even on the highways and discomforting motorists and breaching Abuja laws against grazing of livestocks. What Buhari is doing by these tribal policies is to institutionalize civil war in Nigeria.
From the clear and unambiguous provisions of the bill it is indisputable that sponsors have not adverted their minds to the relevant cases that have been decided by the courts on Land Use Act, Inland waterways, physical planning and acquisition of coastal landed properties by the federal government.
Contrary to the provisions of the proposed bill the federal government cannot authorise or license persons who may want to sink boreholes outside the federal capital territory.
It is trite law that the Land Use Act is one of the laws entrenched in the constitution by the defunct military junta. To that extent, it enjoys statutory flavour and cannot be altered via the National Water Resource Bill or through any other bill.
In other words, the bill is illegal in so far as it seeks to take over water resources on landed properties without amending Section 315 of the constitution in accordance with Section 9 thereof. The evil plots to organize a take over of lands and water resources to hand them over to Fulani herdsmen by all means, will spark off a civil war that may make the Sudanese civil War a Child’s play. Statesmen and Women should call Muhammadu Buhari and his stooges in the National Assembly to order to stop stoking up the flames of ETHNO RELIGIOUS WARFARE IN NIGERIA.
*COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO:
Miss. Zainab Yusuf;
Director, National Media Affairs.
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).
OCTOBER 19TH 2020.