BRIEF ON THE NATIONAL WATER RESOURCES BILL
Water Resources Management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. Water is said to be a natural resource thus, it is available to all and sundry as a free gift of nature. The natural tendency of any rational human being is to use any free gift of nature as he/she pleases not minding the present or future effect; thus, the need for management sets in. To carry out the above, the establishment of agencies is key in order to effectively regulate the resource.
The Water Resources Bill is a compendium of all the laws pertaining to water management in Nigeria. This Bill contains the law establishing the following Institutions: Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), National Water Resources Institute (NWRI), River Basins Development Authorities (RBDAs) and Nigeria Water Resources Regulatory Commission (NWRRC). The objective of the Bill is to ensure that the nation’s water resources are regulated, protected, used, developed, conserved and managed equitably thereby providing an enabling environment for women and children to have easy access to water source.
The global best practice is compliance with IWRM principles, Nigeria, like other major Africa countries is working towards the implementation of IWRM. Also, of all the major sectors in the Country, it is only in the water sector that there is no regulatory body and since the Constitutional provision has given the Federal Government under item 64 of the Exclusive Legislative List the regulatory control over WATER SOURCES THAT AFFECT MORE THAN ONE STATE, the Federal Government in its wisdom approve the setting up of the Commission in 2007 during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime to undertake the regulatory activities in the Water Sector.
2.0 WHY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO HAVE CONTROL OF WATER SOURCES THAT AFFECT MORE THAN ONE STATE
Laws are rules and regulations provided by the governing body in order to attain or achieve peace and order and prevent conflict both in the present and future.
Law prevents international conflict and maintain world peace. The creation of law is of great importance especially in the international realm on many issues or matters relating to water or water dispute between two or more countries.
Law comprises of treaties, a guide book or document containing rules and regulations obligating countries involved in common dispute to have an understanding and agreement in order to maintain world peace and good relationship.
Such an understanding or treaty between countries helps to prevent conflict and assist greatly in trade, commerce and water transportation. The wrangling among Egypt, Sudan & Ethiopia readily comes to mind.
The use of law in making treaties in international relations concerning various countries has proven over time to be necessary in the maintenance of peace, proving to be effective and attainable. The Understanding of such treaties has provided the ideas for the creation of bills governing interstate water usage and control within the country.
This also has been the reason why the Water Resources Bill should be supported to be passed into law by the National Assembly to prevent future conflict, maintain order and provide obligations for inter state use and control of such water within the country.
The Bill when pass will be used as a guiding book containing answers to conflicting questions and also obligations for all states in the federation. The Bill also seeks to prevent both present and future conflicts which might arise due to misunderstandings between various states on water related matters.
Therefore, the importance of the Water Resources Bill is a vital one which influences the decisions on use of water among the states of the federation.
3.0 OBJECTIVES OF THE BILL
In recognition of the entitled rights of citizens and communities to the use of water for domestic, commercial and cultural purposes, Part 1 provides for objectives and entitlement to use of Water, thereby codifying and assuring these rights.
The codification of these objectives and entitlements as provided in S. 1(1a-p, 2 and 3) are as follows:
a. Citizens’ right of access to safe water and basic sanitation;
b. Meeting the basic human needs of present and future generations;
c. Promoting equitable and affordable access to water and reducing poverty;
d. Adopting hydrological boundaries as the basic units for water resources management;
e. Protecting the water environment for sustainability of the resources and protection of aquatic ecosystems, and recognizing the
polluter pays principle;
f. Providing for existing customary uses of water and avoidance of harm to other water users;
g. Promoting the efficient, sustainable and beneficial use of water in the public interest;
h. Facilitating social development, improved public health and economic development;
i. Promoting public-private sector partnerships in delivery of water services;
j. Supporting initiatives to reduce and prevent pollution and degradation of water resources and the aquatic environment;
k. Managing floods, desertification, droughts, erosion control and land drainage;
l. Encouraging comprehensive and equitable coverage of water supply and sanitation including promoting public-private sector
partnerships delivery of water services;
m. Promoting public-private partnerships in the development and management of water resources infrastructure;
n. Promoting dams’ safety and appropriate reservoir operation and management;
o. Meeting international obligations; and
p. Recognizing and implementing the principle of water as an economic good and social good, taking into consideration the socio-
economic status of the users, particularly affordability.
The institutions established under the Bill are for the purposes of achieving its objectives through the following mechanisms as provided in S 1(2-3) which are:
(a) Participation and consultation with States, local governments, communities, women and other stakeholders;
(b) the coordinated management of the water resources sector at the lowest appropriate level;
(c) administrative efficiency;
(f) implementing national policies on gender equality and the environment.
The commercial and cultural rights of citizens are therefore ensured in the Bill.
The Bill further provides for the establishment of a regulatory framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria, to ensure equitable and sustainable development, management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s surface water and groundwater resources; and for related matters.
4.0 THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE WATER RESOURCES BILL 2020
The mechanism of the Bill respects all the international principles on transparency, participatory and all inclusiveness, involving users, planners and policy makers at all levels. The bill provides a legal framework for appropriate institutional, legal and financial mechanisms for water use regulation in Nigeria. The essential elements of the Water Resources Bill 2020 are numerous to mention but a few are critical, which are as follows:
4.01 Constitutional Provisions:
Item 64 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2(1) of the Bill recognizes the right to the use, management and control of all surface and ground water affecting more than one state by the federal government. This enables economic development not allowing monopoly of power, encourage competition, consumer complaints management, employment creation, revenue generation, and encourage investment, industrialization, economic and sustainable growth.
4.02 Entitlement to Use of water:
Section 3(1) of the Bill identifies the right to the use of water for domestic purposes, subsistence farming by use of personal irrigation and subsistence fishing. This means that domestic use of water is recognized as a right.
4.03 National Council on Water Resources:
The Bill in Section 4 recognizes the National Council on Water Resources as the advisory body on Water Resources and to meet once every year to discuss water related issues with the aim of providing recommendation to the Honourable Minister of Water Resources. This meeting is attended by all stakeholders in the water resources sector.
4.04 Signing of International Agreements:
Section 12 of the Bill provides for the Honourable Minister in consultation with the Federal Executive Council, by notice in the gazette, establish a Committee to coordinate implementation of any international agreement entered into by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a foreign Government or any international body or organization relating to investing, managing, monitoring and protecting Water resources amongst others. The Minister Shall Also consult with all affected states prior to entering into any international agreement.
4.05 Consolidation of All Water Resources Laws
The Water Resources Bill 2020 consolidates all the laws in Water Resources which are as follows:
i. The Water Resources Act, CAP W2 LFN 2004
ii. The River Basin Development Authorities Act CAP 396, LFN 2004 an off short
of Decree No. 35 of 1986.
iii. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency Act CAP 2010
iv. The Water Resources Institute Act CAP N83 LFN 2004.
v. and the establishment of the Nigeria Water Resources Regulatory Commission
(NWRRC) under Section 15 of the Bill which has the following amongst its
a. Implement regulatory policies on activities relating to the management of water resources in Nigeria;
b. Be responsible for economic and technical regulation of all aspect of National water resources exploitation and provision;
c. Ensure the safety and quality of Water Resources development and public water services by regulating standards for execution and
d. Issue licences for water resources use in accordance with the provisions of this Bill;
e. Monitor the conduct of holders of the licences and to enforce the conditions included in the licences;
f. Liaise with relevant Agencies to conduct studies and surveys for the purpose of establishing water resources balance, catchments
management plans and water efficiency strategies (including Basin management strategies);
4.1 State Regulatory Agencies:
Section 2(2) gives the states the power to regulate the water resources that flow within the state in which they can set up their own Regulatory Agencies
4.2 Hydrological Areas:
Section 27(3) of the Bill empowers the Commission to have Catchment Management offices in each of the hydrological areas which makes for easy synergy with the River Basin Development Authorities and states and the formation of Catchment Management Committees (CMCs) with the stakeholders in the Catchment.
4.3 Social Elements:
Regulation provides opportunities like IWRM Compliance which is international best practice, Effective management, employment generation, irrigation, service coverage, recreation purposes, investment opportunities, food prosperity, social development and interpersonal relationship.
4.4 Gender Equality:
Water Regulation will address the issue of gender inequality in the water sector. Water Use regulation takes into cognizance equity in the allocation and distribution of Water Resources. Fairness in the allocation of this resource will have a positive impact on women gender who are at the receiving end of water scarcity as the women and girls trek long distance to access water to the detriment of their health, security and education as the case may be
4.5 Public Private Partnership:
The Bill has provided in section 1 (1) (i, l, m) will assist in accelerated water infrastructural development, as private public partnership are introduced to invest in the provisions of instrument for Dam construction and protection and the production of water facilities.
4.6 Preservation of Customary Law:
Where a statutory or customary right of occupancy to any land exists, the Bill protects such owner by preserving, protecting and recognizing his right to take or use water without charge from the underground water sources for domestic use as provided in section 1 (1) (f).
5.0 PARTICIPATION / FUNDING
The following sections SS (1) d (iv), 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 and 57 provides for Water Users Associations, Catchment Management where the Water Users, Farmers, Locals, Local Government officials, State Government officials and Federal Agencies in the States relevant to Water Management are all involved in decision making on Water Allocation and Management.
Lastly section 151 provides for water supply, sanitation and hygiene fund.
This Bill when passed into law will achieve the above stated objectives while aiding Public Private Partnership between stakeholders in the water resources sector. Also, it would solve the issue of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes which is the cause of the reported earth tremor, provide equitable distribution of water resources, effective monitoring and management through licencing of both surface and underground Water Resources. A clear example of this is the concession of the Shiroro, Kainji and Jebba Dams and Reservoirs. Lastly, This Bill also provides for effective and efficient synergy between the Federal and State Regulatory bodies, down to the grassroots (Local Government) level to enhance Integrated Water Resources Management.
Flowing from above, it is evident that the Bill would be of great benefit to the River Basin through its effective implementation.