A two day Zonal Consultation on the Draft National Water Resources Bill took place between 11th and 12th December 2007 in Gateway Hotel , Abeokuta in South West Nigeria.. It was convened by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources with the Support of the European Union delegation to Nigeria Water Supply and Sanitation sector Reform programme (WSSSRP). The meeting drew participants from Government water agencies and legal Units in the Southwestern states of Nigeria; as well as two civil society organizations including the Bread of Life Dev. Foundation The Abeokuta meeting was one out of the six scheduled geopolitical zonal consultations to brain storm and make input on the draft National Water Resources bill about to the presented to Nigeria’s Legislative body- the National Assembly for enactment. Welcoming participants, Mr. C. E. Obidike , the Coordinator of the Draft National Water Resources Bill Review Committee of the draft National Water Resources Bill, who represented the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Water resources, Dr. Abba Sayyadi Ruma, said the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, commenced the process of reforming the Water Resources sector in 1997 by adopting a four phase governance cycle model consisting of
- Review phase.
- Policy development phase (principles and detail policy).
- Reform phase (legislative and institutional); and
- Implementation phase.
The Review phase was carried out in 2001 paying particular attention to seven thematic areas of water recourses management and development which include legal and regulatory framework, institutional framework and participatory approach, information and water resources economics and financing, environment and resources sustainability, water resources infrastructure assets, and assets management and international waters. Obidike said further that ‘the process is now in the Reform phase and this is featuring Consultations in the six geo political zones of the country in order to receive comments and observations on the Draft Bill’. Speaking at the Consultation, a Resource person, Professor Goldface said the “need for proper blend of institutional economic, financial and regulatory framework’ justifies the draft of a new National Water Resources Bill; saying the bill when enacted into will ensure:
- That water resources of the country are put to beneficial use to the optimum level of which they are capable.
- That funds from both Public and Private sector participation in the development of the water sector would be prudently managed to ends that serve the best interest and welfare of the people.
- That Regulatory Control of the water sector would be vested in an independent body
- That Government agencies and Units charged with implementation and enforcement would have the right orientation, correct group and social commitment.
Also speaking, Professor Lekan Oyebande, of the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Lagos said, “water resources management in Nigeria has for long been characterized by business as usual and many shortcomings; inefficiency, ineffectiveness, lack of coordination and decentralized top down approaches”; resulting in poor service delivery, failed food security, poor access to water and sanitation and lack of adequate protection to water ecosystem. To remedy the situation, Prof Oyebande said certain institutions needed to be established to ensure efficient Water Resources Management in Nigeria. In the plenary sections, participants deliberated on sections of the bill and made recommendation on areas that needed alterations, adjustments or additions in the draft water bill. In its presentation, the Bread of Life Development Foundation, BLF, said the draft Bill should state the specific volumetric minimum quantity of clean and safe water citizens have a right to access daily in line with International standards The Bread of Life also noted that the Bill’s provisions copiously promoted the role of the Private Sector as being primarily responsibility for the delivery of Water and Sanitation services; and feared that citizen’s Right to access water could only be guaranteed by efficiently managed publicly owned Water Supply agencies. The Government should not abdicate its responsibility in the water sector, for the Private Sector, rather Government should through this Bill promote the democratization of water management though Public Utility Partnerships (PUPs) rather than Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). Oluwasanmi FalobiWASH officer, BLF.