Two Catholic Church agencies under Caritas Nigeria and the Justice, Development and Peace Commission on Tuesday criticized the recently reintroduced National Water Resources Bill which they say has been poorly received by citizens and interest groups, given its apparent exclusion and disregard of states and citizens.
According to the organizations, the bill, which was first introduced in 2020, grants the federal government direct control over surface and ground water, and further requires individuals to obtain a license before they can access it. water – a natural resource received freely from God to meet human needs.
The Executive Secretary/CEO of Caritas Nigeria and the National Director of JDPC, Revd. Prof. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, who raised the objections in a statement released in Abuja, said the bill contravenes the principle of true federalism.
He said, “The principle of federalism must be respected and the rights of states and local governments to jurisdictions with respect to the use and protection of domestic water must be protected by the federal government.
“We therefore urge the federal government to withdraw this legislation and put public health first by promoting all possible means to ensure quality water and sanitation services, including private ownership and unconstrained use. water restriction.
“Caritas Nigeria is therefore shaken by the implications of this legislation, which has far-reaching effects on citizens and violates the principle of the common good of the Catholic Church. Although the National Water Resources Bill guarantees citizens the right to use water, it protects against private ownership of water and, if enacted, would lead to greater centralization of power. and resources of the nation, thus thwarting ongoing efforts towards the decentralization of powers.
“In addition, section 2(1) of the bill, which reads: ‘All surface waters and ground waters, wherever located, are a resource common to all’, has been construed as placing terrestrial water bodies and sources under the control and supervision of the federal government.’
“Similarly, Article 13 of the Bill states: “In implementing the principles set forth in paragraph (2) of this Article, the institutions established under this Law shall promote the integrated management of water resources and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and groundwater resources, river basins and the adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.
“So this calls into question the principles of subsidiarity and inclusion; which states that a higher level of government or organization shall not perform any function or duty that can be handled more effectively at a lower level, while inclusion emphasizes equal access to opportunities and resources for all, especially for those who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
“Given the unquestionably important role that water plays in preventing health risks and ultimately promoting community health, Caritas Nigeria has over the years conscientiously provided improved access, equal and equitable water, sanitation and hygiene services for all citizens for public and household purposes.
“It is worth mentioning our productive partnership with individuals, communities and development partners, who selflessly ensure that people, including disadvantaged demographic groups, have free and sustainable access to water by providing alternative water sources such as hand pumps and solar boreholes.
“As we urge the federal government to withdraw the bill, we hereby release the following
Recommendations: There is an urgent need for a full and holistic consultation with citizen groups at all levels and in the states, to ensure that every affected section of the population has the opportunity to voice their concerns about the draft law .
“The federal government, through the National Assembly, should take care to support
problems of poverty and hunger, unemployment and insecurity which are ravaging the country rather than
promote controversial and poorly reasoned legislation.
“All senators and members of the House of Representatives must stand up and protect the rights of citizens, and amplify their freedom to control ancestral resources such as land and water.
“The Church calls on all law-abiding citizens to remain peaceful and seek legal means of redress
the vexing bill above. Citizen groups and civil societies should synergize and collaborate strategically to ensure that everything that can be done is done to ensure that the odious bill does not see the light of day.
“We are unequivocally committed to partnering with interest groups and state actors to ensure that citizens exercise their legitimate rights and continuously benefit from the necessities of life. God bless Nigeria!