The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has backed Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for kicking against the purported attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to return the National Water Resources Bill rejected by the public in 2018, to the National Assembly for passage.
Governor Ortom had described the bill as a “disguised land-grabbing legislation” claiming that it was designed “to grant pastoralists unhindered access to river basins, adjacent marine and coastal environments across the country”.
He appealed to the National Assembly members not to accept the bill for the interest of Nigeria.
In a statement released by the group at the weekend, the group said it was impressed with the Governor for showing how a governor should be responsive to the plight of his people under repression.
According to the statement which was signed by a South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Ohanaeze leader, Chief John Nwodo and Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the group said the government is obviously working on a pernicious agenda to permanently damage the country with unpopular measures such as the “revived water resources bill”.
“The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum is, once again, impressed with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue for showing how a governor should be responsive to the plight of his people under repression with his latest statement on the obnoxious, vexatious and divisive overwork the Buhari government is doing for herdsmen its devious plan on water resources bill,” the statement partly read.
“The Governor insisted that 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 was anti-federalism and also negated the right of Nigerians to their God-given resources.
“He further observed that Section 13 of the Bill, states thus: ‘In implementing the principles under subsection (2) of this section, the institutions established under this Act shall promote integrated water resources management and the coordinated management of land and water resources, surface water and groundwater resources, river basins and adjacent marine and coastal environment and upstream and downstream interests.’
“He described as curious, the reintroduction of the Bill, which was rejected in 2018 by the 8th Assembly adding “those pushing for the passage of the bill at all cost have a surreptitious motive which is not yet clear to other Nigerians.
“We agree totally with the Governor and state further that this government is obviously working on a pernicious agenda to permanently damage this country with unpopular measures such as this revived water resources bill.
“That Buhari like Mobutu Sese Sekou of Zaire wants to be succeeded by chaos daily manifests in its reckless conduct of our national affairs. This country has lived in peace for several years with its lands vested in the governors through the Land Use Act which is part of the constitution.
“We were shocked as a country last week to listen to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha announcing the approval of Mr Silas Agara, as the approved chairman of National Population Commission after the latest Council of State meeting.
“The report was relayed on NTA, only for the medium to announce a substituted name of Nasiru Isa before the end of the news, confirming our fear that Buhari’s men were planning to replace the Christian with a Muslim playing on our fault lines.”
While disclosing that it had taken legal action against the government for its alleged excesses, the SMBLF urged Nigerians to surrender the soul of the country to shenanigans.
“We have approached the court to challenge the excesses of this government and urge Nigerians not to surrender the soul of the country to its shenanigans,” it noted.
“Nigeria must outlive the Buhari government in its schemes.”