By Bridget Ikyado, Abuja.
Caritas Nigeria has urged the Federal Government to review the National Water Resources Bill.
The group made the appeal in a statement issued by its Executive Secretary, Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, on Tuesday in Abuja.
Caritas Nigeria said that the bill ought to include private ownership and unrestricted use of water, instead of ceding the sole control of water resources in the country to the Federal Government.
It noted that the bill excluded and gave no consideration to states and citizens in matters of water resources.
Caritas Nigeria argued that as a God-given resource, access to water should not be restricted by legislation.
“There is an urgent need for a comprehensive and holistic consultation with citizens, 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,’’ it added.
The group advised the Federal Government and National Assembly to concentrate on pressing issues of poverty and hunger, unemployment and insecurity, rather than promoting any contentious legislation.
It stressed that the principle of federalism should be respected, as well as rights of states and local governments regarding domestic water use and protection.
“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 Church calls on all law-abiding citizens to remain peaceful and seek lawful means to redress the vexing piece of legislation,” it added.
Caritas Nigeria said it would continue to partner with interest groups and state actors to ensure that citizens exercised their legitimate rights and continually enjoyed the necessities of life.
The group recalled that the bill, which was first introduced in 2020, sought to grant the Federal Government direct control over surface and ground waters.
The proposed law also wants individuals to obtain licence before they can access water.
“We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to retract this legislation and prioritize public health, by promoting every means possible for achieving quality water and sanitation services, including private ownership and unrestricted use of water,” Caritas Nigeria said.