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Reps dump controversial water resources bill

Following the controversy trailing the National Water Resources Bill, 2020, the House of Representatives Tuesday voted for the withdrawal and regazetting of the proposed legislation.
The resolution of the House was consequent upon the approval of a matter of privilege raised by Hon. Benjamin Bem Mzondu (PDP, Benue) at the plenary.
While raising the mater of privilege, Hon. Mzondu complained that his privilege as a lawmaker was breached as he was denied the opportunity to make inputs to the bill because the legislation was not regazetted and copies distributed to legislators.
“I don’t know what’s contained in the bill and my constituents have been asking to know what is contained in the bill, but Mr. Speaker, as l am speaking now, l haven’t seen a copy of the bill and don’t know what it contains.
“That bill has no life and was rejected by the Senate and as such should start a new journey de novo.
“My rights as a member have been breached and as such the bill should be expunged,” the lawmaker demanded.
Continuing, 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 gazette 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 deprives 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 gazette or clean copies circulated. It is important to note that the word emphasises here is gazette, which means appearing in the Bill’s 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 the 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. Where the bill was labelled as Bill 2020, it was not considered as such.
“It is important to emphasise 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 chalenged 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, an initial no matter how 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 does 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.”
Supporting Mzondu, Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta (PDP, Abia) raised a constitutional point of order, asserting that the House had no basis to consider the bill, as it cannot amend the constitution through a bill.

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