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Stakeholders of the Indigenous People Within Nigeria, including a Lagos-based lawyer, Malcolm Omirhobo, have given the National Assembly 90 days’ notice to stop the passage of the proposed National Water Resources Bill, which it is proposing to pass because the Federal Government doesn’t have the power to pass the law.
They said at the expiration of the 90-day notice they and other interested Nigerians would sue the National Assembly if it passes the obnoxious National Water Resources Bill 2022 into law.
On July 27, 2022, governors of the 36 states of the Federation declared unanimous opposition to the contentious National Water Resources Bill, describing the proposed legislation as unconstitutional, and adding that it failed to carry states along.
The governors argued that the bill does not adequately address the interests of the states and is inconsistent with provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The bill, according to them, should be reviewed to accommodate the concerns of all states.
The stakeholders of the Indigenous Peoples within Nigeria, numbering over 500 ethnic nationalities, stated that if the National Water Resources Bill is passed into law, it will give the Federal Government exclusive dominance and control over waterways, which will further impoverish Nigerians in riverine states who depend on waterways to generate revenue internally.
Speaking after a colloquium hosted by the Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation held in Lagos, Omirhobo said the national assembly has no powers to legislate on fishing and fisheries in rivers, lakes, waterways, ponds, and other inland waters within Nigeria.
He said that the objectives of the National Water Resources Bill are matters which only the state houses of assemblies have the power to pass into law, not the national assembly, which is acting ultra vires.
According to him, the National Water Resources Bill in its entirety is inconsistent with the clear positions of the Land Use Act and Section 315(5)(d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and, therefore, to the extent of its inconsistency, null and void.
In addition, Omirhobo said these ethnic nationalities are committed to the unity of Nigeria based on justice, fairness, equity, oneness, and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.
He said, “For Nigeria to progress, its government must without any further delay be courageous enough to restructure the country by encouraging the establishment of state police and the reversion of the country from unitarism to true fiscal federalism as it was in 1963. Every state must be allowed to manage its natural resources and pay taxes to the federal government.
“The Nigerian Government should and with immediate effect dredge the River Niger and Oguta Lake to be navigable and reopen, activate, and develop the Warri, Calabar, Koko, Onne, and Port Harcourt seaports to create jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country.
“Nigeria is 90 per cent a failed state with agitations among the various indigenous peoples due to a lack of inclusiveness and transparency in the existing governance structure; consequently, the way out is for the Federal Government to convoke a referendum as a matter of urgency.”