A group known as the Forum of Concerned Nigerians, FCN, has commended members of the 9th National Assembly for listening to the voice of conscience and rejecting the National Water Resources Bill which was designed to deprive Nigerians of their ancestral lands for the benefit of herders in parts of the country.
In a statement signed by its National Secretary, Samson Ochono, the group said the rejection of the bill by the Senate during its last plenary session justified the persistent calls by patriotic Nigerians like the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom in the last five years asking the National Assembly not to bow to pressure from enemies of the nation who were bent on having the bill passed.
The group said former Governor Ortom has written his name in gold for always standing for justice, equity and fairness and for sacrificing to be the voice of voiceless Nigerians each time the Muhammadu Buhari administration introduced draconian policies.
It described the bill which sought to bring all water sources (surface and underground) as well as river banks under the control of the Federal Government through its agencies as anti-federalism as it negated the right of Nigerians to own their God-given resources.
FCN recalls that in November 2016, the Senate rejected the controversial bill seeking to establish a Grazing Management Agency which was to ensure the creation of cattle grazing areas across the country and in 2017 when the Federal Government again tried to influence the passage of a bill with a similar apparel known as National Grazing Routes and Reserves Bill. The group notes that the bill was equally rejected following the alarm raised by patriotic Nigerians like Ortom.
The government subsequently introduced the National Water Resources Bill which also came with a singular objective of bringing all water sources (surface and underground) and river banks under the control of the Federal Government, a move that attracted a torrent of condemnations from Nigerians.
FCN has condemned the outgone government of Buhari for waging a war of attrition against other Nigerians with its attempts to impose cruel policies such as Ruga, Cattle Colonies and several other programmes, all aimed at creating settlements for pastoralists in all the states of the federation.
The group says Nigerians will not forget in a hurry that in August 2021, President Buhari approved recommendations of a committee to review “with dispatch, 368 grazing sites, across 25 states in the country, and to determine the levels of encroachment.” Again, Benue under Ortom and other states rejected the presidential approval and the idea was thrown out.
It says history will favouraby record former Governor Ortom’s tireless efforts when he raised alarm over the reintroduction of the National Water Resources Bill into the National Assembly in 2020 as sponsored by the Buhari administration and the call he made in May this year when the bill was surreptitiously renamed as the National Grazing Reserves Council Bill urging the Senate and House of Representatives to remain vigilant and resist last minute attempts under whatever guise to pass the proposed law.
The group also acknowledges the role played by members of the Benue State caucus in the 9th Assembly which position was presented by Senator Gabriel Suswam against the passage of the bill, describing the partnership between the caucus and Dr Ortom in fighting and defeating the evil bill as worthy of emulation.