The House of Representatives on Tuesday withdrew the controversial National Water Resources Bill, 2020 after the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, ruled that it should be stepped down to enable the House gazette the Bill and approve it before transmitting it to the Senate.
Tuesday’s House of Representatives’ decision to withdraw the Bill followed a tumultuous back and forth session during the consideration of a Matter of Privilege raised by Hon. Benjamin Mzondu (PDP-Benue), who wanted the Bill stepped down because of the public outcry by Nigerians against it.
Hon. Mzondu had railed against the transmission of the bill to the Senate insisting that he was not privileged to sight a gazette copy of the bill and hence could not participate in the consideration of the report by the Committee of the Whole.
He said: “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.
“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 labelled 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.”
After a prolonged debate and contributions from members with some for and against, the Speaker of the House ordered the Bill stepped down for a fresh gazetting.
“Fundamental issues have been raised by Hon. Mzondu. He has backed them up, with a clear language, that such bills must be re-gazetted.
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