By GODFREY GEORGE, IKENNA OBIANERI, OLUFEMI OLANIYI and BOLA BAMIGBOLA
The Middle Belt Forum, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the the pan-Niger Delta Forum as well as the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra have condemned the controversial Water Resources Bill reintroduced to the House of Assembly.
The Chairman, House Committee on Water Resources, Senator Sada Jibiya, representing Jibia/Kaita constituency in the 9th National Assembly, from Katsina State reintroduced the bill to the House of Representatives.
The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, had in an earlier reaction insisted that his state would resist any attempt by the Federal Government to grab land belonging to the people through the re-introduction of the bill.
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, the President, MBF, Dr Birtus Pogu, said the Middle Belt region would continue to kick against the bill, stating that it was inimical to democracy.
According to him, the government was only interested in land grabbing, not addressing the issues between herders and farmers.
“The Middle Belt is consistent. We had kicked against the Water Resources Bill in 2018 and we will continue to do so for as long as it rears its head. We will not change now. We have suffered so much from the influx of foreign Fulani along with our own.
“We have advised the Federal Government to introduce ranching and find a way that Fulani in their local communities who are known to their people can start practising ranches. Some of these conflicts are because of the bleaching of the pastures for cattle.
“The government is not interested in what is beneficial or will solve the problems of this country. It is only interested in grabbing land and waterways; for what purpose?
“In some areas, some government facilities are by the river. What do we do about this? There are things that the government should hands off.
“In the true sense of things, we are better off practicing true federalism so that the federating units will find ways of addressing issues.
“Go to some parts of the North-East, you will see many herds of cattle. Only God knows from where they came. They do not look Nigerian; they don’t speak our language,” he said.
He stressed that the policy was unfavourable to co-existence and progress of Nigerians.
“We are talking more of devolution of powers not concentration of powers at the centre. What is the federal government trying to do by concentrating powers even including water resources at the centre? It is inimical to progress and it is not good for modern development and democracy,” he added.
Also reacting, the spokesperson, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said the bill had the potential to cause more mayhem in Nigeria than good, noting that it should be jettisoned.
Ogbonnia said, “The Water Resources Bill as far as Ohanaeze Ndigbo is concerned is very obnoxious, ill-intended and of course, has the potential to cause more mayhem in Nigeria.
“It is another way of entrenching this RUGA and cattle colony and we will not accept that. All the state governors and lawmakers all over the country should oppose and reject it.”
Further reacting, PANDEF said the bill did not have a place in the modern scheme of things.
PANDEF spokesperson, Mr Ken Robinson, speaking with Sunday PUNCH, said, “No matter the number of times they bring this bill up, we will continue to resist it. The Federal Government cannot plunder our lands, steal our oil and now want to take over our waterways for their agenda. It cannot work. We will continue to be opposed to it.”
Also reacting, in a statement on Saturday, the Media and Publicity Secretary of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, Emma Powerful, said the bill was dead on arrival because it will be resisted with everything at their disposal.
Meanwhile, the Osun state Commissioner for Information, Funke Egbemode, said the current administration in the state would continue to ensure protection of lives and property of the residents, working within the provisions of the law.