Northern lawmakers in the House of Representatives have allegedly concluded plans to impeach the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, should he fail to support the controversial Water Resources Bill during its second reading, SaharaReporters has learnt.
It was gathered that the Northern lawmakers who are bent on making sure the bill succeeds, have already asked the Clerk of the House to prepare an ‘addendum’ and plan to take their counterparts from the Southern part of the country unawares, to ensure the bill successfully passes second reading.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-submission of the bill has been strongly and widely rejected by the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Middle Belt Forum.
The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu and a clique of lawmakers in the National Assembly as well as sponsors of the controversial bill, Sada Soli, Chairman, Committee on Water Resources and Hassan Fulata, Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business, have been desperately pushing for the passage of the bill which was rejected by the 8th National Assembly following public outcry.
Their relentless campaign to ensure the passage of the bill has fuelled speculations that they have ulterior motives. One of the provisions considered offensive in the bill is that while there is popular agitation for resource control and devolution of powers to the states and local governments, the bill seeks to compel Nigerians to permit and pay taxes to the federal government like oil and gas operators before they drill boreholes in the backyards.
The bill also seeks to cede ownership of waterways, river banks and others to the federal government, allegedly for the resettlement of foreign herdsmen.
The House of Representatives on June 29, 2022, passed the bill for first reading in what can be described as an ambush of the Southern lawmakers, many of whom were said to be absent at that day’s sitting.
A member of the House of Representatives from Sokoto State who is not comfortable with the bill told SaharaReporters on the condition of anonymity that all plans to smuggle the controversial water resources bill that almost tore the nation apart, through second reading at the House of Representatives have been intensified and concluded by the Northern lawmakers.
“The plan is that if the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, fails back them to succeed in the second reading of the controversial water resources bill, he will be impeached and I can authoritatively tell you that the Clerk of the House has been mandated already to prepare addendum.
“The Presidency is solidly behind this whole arrangement and strong opposition to the reintroduction of the bill to the House will not stop its passage as plans to get it passed this time around have been concluded already. The plot to get the bill passed in the 9th Assembly has the blessing of the President and the leadership of the National Assembly.
“Unlike in the last attempt when the Speaker of House of Representatives played a stabilising role leading to the defeat of the bill, this time around, the threat of impeachment is hanging on Femi Gbajabiamila if he fails to play along.
“The plot to pass the bill was hatched here in Nigeria but was concluded at Mecca during the recent Hajj in Saudi Arabia. And part of the plot is to impeach the Speaker of the House, Gbajabiamila, whom they believe didn’t do much to ensure that the bill was passed before even when he knew the President was interested in the bill.
“They wanted the bill passed for the second reading this past week, but many Southern lawmakers were around and with support from Northern Christian lawmakers, the sponsor and the leadership of the House failed to bring the bill last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. When the bill was passed for the first reading in the House, no member had seen or had a copy of the bill, except those behind it and this prompted the Speaker to direct that every lawmaker should get a copy of the bill to study ahead of the second reading debate and this directive has not been carried out. This is to tell you the bill has a hidden agenda that could tear this nation apart.
“The National Assembly would have gone on vacation, but they are waiting for most of the Southern lawmakers who have made summer travelling arrangements to travel out of the country, then they will strike. They will observe this week; if they can’t pass it because of the large number of Southern and Northern Christian lawmakers at the chamber, the House will be made to convoke an emergency sitting of the House, after the House might have been adjourned for vacation. The Clerk of the House has prepared an addendum to enable the House to reconvene and sit even at night or weekend to consider and pass the controversial bill with or without southern members in attendance.
“My fear is that if the Southern Nigerians fail to rise to the occasion, the bill will pass through as certain interests in the Presidency and core North are bent on passing the bill and have mobilised huge resources to get it done. For me, this is a fight for the soul of Nigeria, because if this bill passes through the second reading, then it’s finished and the crisis that it will trigger in the country can best be imagined. This is how they passed 3% for Host Community Fund in the PIA (Petroleum Industry Act), as against the 5% we collectively agreed. The bill, which was initially introduced and rejected during the 8th Assembly, following public outcry, looks like Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) in disguise with the backing of the Presidency.”