Owing to what Nigeria’s House of Representatives saw as wrong procedure, the controversial National Water Resources Bill has been returned for re-gazetting.
The House had passed the contentious bill into law two months ago.
Recall that the federal government insisted that it would not back down on enacting the proposed bill.
Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture on Tuesday, September 22, dismissed the suggestions that the bill was designed to cause conflict.
The minister made the statement at a joint briefing with the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu in Abuja.
However, during the plenary of the House on Tuesday, September 29, members of the green chambers strongly opposed the procedure adopted in passing the bill, resulting in a rowdy session.
The lawmakers engaged in a shouting march when Benjamin Mzondu representing Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency in Benue State moved the motion under Matter of Privilege.
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.
According to him, “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 Bill HB 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.”
The PDP lawmaker argued “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 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.”
Though Idris Wase, the deputy Speaker of the House, stated that members were given copies of the bill before it was considered at the committee of the whole, the remaining lawmakers, however, shouted in disagreement with his position.
At last, Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, thereafter granted his prayers, “fundamental issues have been raised by Hon. Mzonda.
Gbajabiamila, therefore, granted the member’s prayers and ordered the withdrawal of National Water Resource Bill for re-gazetting.
He argued that since the Bill was passed, it had been met by public outcry and its breach of House’ Rules.