Afenifere Kicks Against Waterways Bill; Says It’s Another Instance Of FG’s Insensitivity…Insists On True Federalism

The pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, has described the insistence of the federal government to pass the repeatedly rejected Waterways Resources Bill into law as another instance of how the government is often hell-bent on going ahead with what majority of Nigerians frown at while neglecting the ones Nigerians yearn for.

The organization’s position is contained in a Press Release signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi while reacting to the latest statement by the Minister of Water Resources, Mallam Suleiman Adamu.

Speaking when he featured at an interview programme by the News Agency of Nigeria last week in Abuja, the Minister had said, among other things, that the Bill provides for professional and efficient management of all surface and ground water for the use of all Nigerians.

That it will also ensure that the Nation’s Water Resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, and managed in a sustainable manner for the benefits of all Nigerians. While vowing that his Ministry will continue to pursue the passage of the Bill into law “because it is our responsibility as a government”, the minister described those who are opposing the passage of the bill in its present form as ‘hysterical’.

But taking a swipe at this position, Ajayi asserted that “the Minister’s assertion smacks of arrogance, disdain for the people of Nigeria and insensitivity to the things that are of immediate concern to Nigerians.”

To Afenifere spokesman, it is unbecoming of a public officer to describe Nigerians as hysterical simply because they express their displeasure to a government policy.

Secondly, given the fact that the attempts to pass this bill have been consistently rejected since its first mentioning in 2020 during the 8th National Assembly, it ought to dawn on the federal government that Nigerians are not ready to accept the Bill in its present form. Rather than acting as though it can force its plan down the throat of the people, what the government ought to do is to listen to the people and adjust in accordance with the aspirations and feelings of the people.

“But what have we been experiencing in the hands of government officials, especially those serving under President Muhammadu Buhari? Disdain, lack of respect for the people, actions depicting the government as one of conquest rather than an elected one,” he said.

On the reasons adduced for insisting on the bill, Afenifere spokesman submitted that the Minister was only trying to disguise the real intention behind the insistence. The minister had said that “The Bill provides for professional and efficient management of all surface and ground water for the use of all Nigerians.”

Dismissing this on the basis of hypocrisy, Ajayi argued that the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is directly under the federal government.

“How efficiently has it utilized the ‘surface and ground water’ of that territory for the benefit of Abuja residents? Beyond that, the Minister should inform Nigerians of instances of where states’ governments – who have control over they lands in their respective areas – denied the federal government the opportunity to use land or water resources for the genuine benefit of the people in the said area”.

He stated that rather than states impeding the federal government in this respect, “it is the latter that is impeding the state governments. A typical example that can readily be cited is Ikere Gorge Dam near Iseyin in Oyo State. For about 40 years now, the federal government had been on it. All entreaties by the people of Oke ogun and Oyo State governments to get the government to complete the project had fallen on deaf ears. Even governments of the then Western State and later Oyo State made efforts to do it, yet the federal government denied them. The people and the nation have been the loser for it.

”The Ikere Gorge Dam project was to provide electricity, irrigation, aquatic agriculture among others for about four states in the South West of the country and contribute electricity to the national grid.

“What we are saying is that the federal government has not demonstrated good faith and deed in areas within its control. So how can we trust it with those under the purvey of state and local governments?”

The pan Yoruba organization said that just as it said in its comment on this same issue on July 22, 2022, the real intention of the federal government is to have littoral lands available for pastoralists for whom it failed to secure lands under the rejected RUGA and its failed attempt to impose the Indigene-ship law on the people.

Ajayi added that what made the present insistence by the Minister to be objectionable was the hypocrisy in terms of the false impression he wanted to create to wit: that this government is committed to serving the best interest of the people.

“Were the present administration truly committed to the best interest of the majority of Nigerians, issues that would be of major concern to it would be the insecurity that has made life unbearable for a lot of people, collapsing economy that has made nonsense of the people’s welfare and the ignoble state of social and infrastructural facilities in the country. The government’s resorting to creating rival bodies instead of addressing the issues raised by the Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU) is a clear instance of how this administration is acting as though it did not derive its mandate from the people. It is only in a situation where a people are being governed in a hegemonic, conquered manner that this type of treatment operates.”

He concluded by saying that “in addition to advising President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to forget the Waterways Bill for now, we urge it to set the machinery in motion for the return of the country to true federalism as that would solve most of the problems that appear to be intractable in the country presently”.

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