Caritas Nigeria, also known as Caritas Foundation Nigeria, has asked the Federal Government to retract the National Water Resources Bill.
Revd. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, the Executive Director of Caritas, Nigeria and the Justice Development & Peace Commission (JDPC), in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, said there is an urgent need for a comprehensive and holistic consultation with citizen groups across the board and states to ensure that every concerned section of the populace is offered the opportunity to express their concerns about the Bill.
The bill, introduced in 2020, grants the Federal Government direct control over surface and ground waters and further mandates individuals to obtain a license before they can access water.
The National Water Resources Bill guarantees citizens the right to use water, it guards against private ownership of water and, if signed into law, would lead to further centralization of power and the nation’s resources, thereby countering ongoing efforts towards devolution of powers.
Moreover, Section 2(1) of the Bill, which reads, “All surface water and groundwater, wherever it occurs, is a resource common to all people”, has been interpreted as assigning terrestrial water bodies and sources under the
control and supervision of the federal government.
But the charity organisation said it was “rattled by the implications of this legislation, which has far-reaching effects on the citizenry and violates the Catholic Church’s principle of the Common Good”.
Revd. Fr Obodoechina said the Federal Government, through the National Assembly, should concern itself with pressing issues of poverty and hunger, unemployment and insecurity that ravage the country rather than
promoting contentious and ill-motivated legislation.
He recommended that the principle of Federalism should be respected, and the rights of States and Local Governments to jurisdictions as it relates to domestic water use and protection must be protected by the Federal
“All Senators and House of Representatives members should rise and protect the rights of citizens and amplify their freedom to control ancestral resources such as land and water,” the Reverend Father said.
He urged all law-abiding citizens to remain peaceful and seek lawful means to redress the irritating piece of legislation.
“Citizen groups and civil societies should synergize and strategically collaborate to ensure that all that can be done is done to ensure that the obnoxious Bill does not see the light of the day.”
He said the Church is committed to partnering with interest groups and state actors to ensure that citizens
exercise their legitimate rights and continually enjoy the necessities of life.