By Eric Ikhilae and Joshua Oboh, Abuja

Governors of the 36 states of the federation have faulted the National Water Resources Bill currently before the National Assembly for consideration.

The bill, they argued, was inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution as it failed to address the interests of states.

But Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu branded those criticising the proposed law as adversaries of the nation.

Adamu also hinted of government’s plan to license boreholes “so that we know what is happening to our groundwater.”

The governors, in a teleconference meeting yesterday, called for a rejig of the bill to accommodate the concerns of the states.

Their communique reads: “We believe that the bill does not adequately address the interests of the states and is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The bill should be reviewed with a view to accommodating the concerns of all states.

The communique was signed by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Chairman, Kayode Fayemi.

The governors, according to the statement, entertained presentations by three ministers—   Mohammad Abubakar (Agriculture and Rural Development); Osagie Ehanire (Health) and Zainab Ahmed (Finance, Budget and National Planning).

It added that the governors agreed to cooperate with the Federal Government on measures to address the growing health, economic and food challenges in the country.

Part of the statement by Fayemi reads: “Governors unanimously decided to spearhead the programme in their states, particularly in areas such as institutional and innovation systems strengthening, livestock value-chain enhancement, crisis prevention and conflict mitigation, and project coordination.

“Following the presentation by the Finance, Budget and  National Planning Minister, governors had a robust discussion with priority given to the government’s response to the fallouts of the Russia-Ukraine war (including inflation and the rising food and nutrition crises), the continued impact of the PMS (Petroleum Motor Spirit) subsidy on the fiscal headroom of governments, implications of NNPC’s new transition on federation revenues, as well as the widening divergence between the official and parallel market rate of the dollar on the currency.

In Abuja, Water Resources Minister Adamu debunked allegations that the bill is a ploy by the government to grab the ancestral land of Nigerians.

Adamu reiterated that the bill was in the national interest and will be beneficial to all Nigerians.

The minister expressed concern that emotions had been injected into a bill “that is a very important step toward improving the water resources sector of Nigeria.”

He appealed to Nigerians to have a dispassionate view of the bill, adding that it is unthinkable that the government is trying to take people’s land.

The minister said: “Enemies of Nigeria have decided to unnecessarily politicise something that is in the best interest of the people.

“Everybody downstream of River Niger or any river is the most protected community and individuals as long as this bill is concerned.

“We have now institutionalised the National Council of water resources. This is a Council we meet annually, the Minister, Commissioners responsible for water resources from every state, and other experts and stakeholders.

“We are now making it a law, so everything we are going to discuss water resources will be discussed under that Council and every State is represented. For goodness sake ladies and gentlemen what is wrong with us.

“In every country of the world, you need to have data for everything. Every day, we are drilling boreholes in this country, we don’t even know how many boreholes we have. We have to license boreholes so we know what is happening to our groundwater.

“Of course, we won’t prevent anyone from drilling borehole in his house, we are concerned about the people that are drilling 10 – 20 boreholes and doing bottled water and beverages at your expense. They are taking what belongs to you and selling it back to you.

“So, we are saying, if someone is taking groundwater and commercialising it, he has to pay the relevant taxes.

“For me, the most painful thing is that people have been misinformed and misled. If we allow all those spreading lies to succeed, all the benefits we have been talking about will be lost, and we will be back to square one with no appreciable progress in the water sector.”

The minister expressed confidence that the bill will enable farmers and individuals to be involved in the environmental scheme infrastructure in their communities.