The leadership of the National Assembly may seek support from the federal government for possible amendments to the contentious Water Resources Bill in a fresh bid to address the concerns raised by Nigerians opposed to the bill.
The bill is currently being debated in the House of Representatives.
Reliable sources in the two legislative chambers debunked the claims in some quarters that federal lawmakers are sworn to go ahead with passing the bill in spite of the uproar it is generating across the country.
Findings by The Nation revealed that the controversy being generated by the bill is already tearing the National Assembly apart with the House of Representatives Committee on Water Resources already sharply divided on whether to go ahead with the passage of the bill.
Sources said the last meeting of the committee ended abruptly with some members informing the chairman that their constituents are strongly opposed to the bill and as such would no longer work for its passage unless certain amendments were made.
The Nation however learnt that the chairman of the committee, Hon. Sada Soli, continued to play down members’ opposition to the bill, insisting on the need for the legislature to pass it.
The disagreement over the bill, it was gathered, has spread beyond the committee into the chambers of both the upper and the lower houses.
A source said: “Many members of the House are speaking up against the bill, claiming that their constituents are against it. I can tell you that one or two caucuses in the House have written formally to oppose the bill. Even many senators have added their voices to the opposition to the bill.
“That is not to say there are no lawmakers supporting the bill. Many are. The chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Water Resources, Hon. Soli, is one of the ardent supporters of the bill. And so are many other lawmakers.
“To say the truth, the bill has divided the National Assembly, and unless caution is applied in handling it, chances that it will be the biggest trouble for this 9th assembly are now looking very likely.”
Our correspondent also gathered that the committee has been unable to agree as to whether a public hearing should be held for the controversial bill.
While opponents of the bill are suggesting a public hearing as a way to determine how acceptable the bill is to Nigerians, proponents of the bill are insisting that a public hearing was done for the bill by the eighth assembly, and so, unnecessary.
This disagreement, like many others over the controversial bill, has spilled into the larger house across party lines, according to sources.
As a result of the inability of the lawmakers to agree on what to do with the bill, with the leadership of the National Assembly unwilling to risk the crisis it is capable of foisting on the hallowed chambers, The Nation gathered that NASS may, as a way out of the current imbroglio, approach the federal government for understanding on the need for the bill to be subjected to some amendment so as to make it more acceptable to angry lawmakers and other Nigerians opposed to its passage.
“That way, we will be able to still pass it and please everybody,” our source said.
The Nation further gathered that the leadership of the two chambers may have discussed the controversy being generated by the bill and resolved that it is needless.
Fears that federal legislators may openly reject the bill to the embarrassment of the Presidency is also said to be top on the list of reasons why NASS may appeal to the federal government to allow the bill go through some amendment.
“The federal government may recall the bill and amend it after discussion with the leadership of the National Assembly,” a source said.