There was near pandemonium on Tuesday, while considering a Matter of Privilege, raised by Rep. Benjamin Mzondu to be heard on National Water Resources Bill, 2020 which has generated suspicion amongst citizens from Southern Nigeria.
Hon. Mzondu’s motion called for the withdrawal of the Bill, owing to the public outcry against it and its breach of House Rules.
While presenting his Matter of Privilege, Hon. Mzondu cited Order 6, Rule 1(1), 2 and 3, as he argued against the transmission of the Bill to the Senate and its finally becoming law.
In his words, “I wish to refer to Order 6, Rule 1(1), 2 and 3 and Order 12, Rule 18 to state that I was deprived of my legislative Privilege of sighting a gazetted copy of the National Water Resources BillHB 921, and such could not participate in the consideration of the report by the Committee of the Whole, which also deprived me of my rights and privilege of representation to my people.”
“Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, it is in the effort to eliminate the “Element of Surprise”, that the House in its wisdom, included in its Standing Rule, that every Bill, must be gazetted or clean copies circulated. It is important to note that the word emphasized here, is “gazette”, which means appearing in the Bills Journal of the House.”
“The words used are clear and unambiguous, they ought to be given their ordinary meaning, as stated.”
“Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, I was misled by the use of order 12, Rule 18 of our Standing Orders. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Colleagues, it is an issue of law and procedure, and Hon. Speaker, the onus of interpretation, lies with you. Where the Bill was labeled as Bill 2020, it was not considered as such.
“The laws lay, on your shoulder to interpret these rules as stated in Order 7 Rule 1(7). It is important to emphasize that I have painstakingly searched through all the journals of the House, and cannot find where the Bill is gazetted and I stand to be challenged or corrected.
“The next question for your consideration, Hon. Speaker, deals with jurisdiction, whether the House have such powers to entertain a bill, such proceedings become a nullity, ab initio no matter how conducted and decided.”
“So having not met this condition, I wish to move, relying on Order8 Rule 8 and the above-stated rules, that “The House do rescind/expunge its decision of 23rd July 2020, which adopted the National Water Resources Bill, 2020 HB921 to have been read the Third time from our records.”
After a charged debate from both sides of the legislative divide, the Speaker ordered for the withdrawal of Bill.
“Fundamental issues have been raised by Hon. Mzondu. He has backed them up, with a clear language, that such bills, must be re-gazetted”, the Speaker said.
The Water Resources Bill which was sponsored by Rep. Sada Soli(APC-Katsina), which seek to hand over the country’s water bodies to the Federal Government has been generating controversy since it was adopted by the House since July.
Majority of people from southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt region see the bill as the ploy by power brokers from the core North to resettle the herdsmen across the country.