The House of Representatives has rescinded the passage of the controversial National Water resources bill over flaws in the procedure that led to its passage bill. Upon resumption on Tuesday, a member of the House, Ben Nzondo from Benue State moved a point of privilege and argued that the proper procedure was not followed on the bill. In his ruling, speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila concluded that Nzondo had raised fundamental objections that must be looked into. Citing several sections of the House rules to back Mzondu's argument, he said: "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. “I wish to move, relying on Order 8, 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 H3921 to have been read the third time from our records. I so move,” Mzondu said.
“Mr. Speaker, honourable colleagues, it is in the effort to eliminate the “Element of Surprise”, that the House in its wisdom, included in its Standing Rules, states 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. It is an issue of law and procedure and Hon. Speaker, the onus of interpretation lies with you.
“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 has such powers to entertain a bill. Such proceedings become a nullity ab initio, no matter how they are conducted and decided.
“So having not met this condition, I wish to move, relying on Order 8, 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.”
Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, warned against abandoning the House rules.
He said: “When this bill was first presented for consideration, it was stepped down because of complaints from members that they have no copies before it was later considered after copies were made available to members.”
The Federal Government said the bill is designed to effectively manage water resources, adding that it has no hidden agenda.
Among others, it seeks to place the control of all water and its resources solely at the hands of the Federal Government.
After a prolonged debate from both sides of the legislative divide, the speaker ordered withdrawal of the Bill.
“Fundamental issues have been raised by Mzondu, he has backed them up with a clear language, that such bills must be re-gazetted," Gbajabiamila said.