Probing the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the River Basin Development Authorities Over Misuse of Public Funds: A Welcome Decision

About a month ago the report shown below was filed by Premium Times. The reasons adduced for the probe by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts are two:

1. Refusal of the agencies to answer queries raised by the Auditor General of the Federation.

2.The Committee’s displeasure over “the manner the basin authorities were administered over the years.”

The probe is supposed to be in form of public hearing. If one considers the above first reason which is on the Auditor’s queries and the fact that the Ministry has refused to honor invitations from the House Committee it is difficult to see what a public hearing will achieve. It will be in the interest of the public if an insight can be given on the number and nature of queries so far given. Many thanks to Premium Times for shining its probing lights on the activities of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources. It did so about a year ago, July 27, 2012 when it wrote on “INVESTIGATION] The Massive MDG Fraud (2): How Nigeria’s water ministry steals billions, then leave the taps dry.” (http://premiumtimesng.com/news/93667-investigation-the-massive-mdg-fraud-2-how-nigerias-water-ministry-steals-billions-then-keep-the-taps-dry.html).  I doubt if there was any official response to this 2012 article. Apparently the Federal Ministry of Water Resources is becoming another ‘untouchable ministry.’ The second reason for the probe is on the displeasure of the House Committee “over the manner the basin authorities were administered over the years.”

A reader of the current Premium Times report may be suspecting that the concern of the House Committee is about only how funds are being used in the RBDAs. The reader’s suspicion may not be unfounded but may miss a more profound reason. Our RBDAs have lost focus. This becomes glaring if one considers what they are currently engaged in (production of sachet water ‘pure water’ and bottled water) comparison with the articles of the edict that established them.

The following summarizes the functions of the RBDAs:

• To undertake comprehensive development of both surface and groundwater resources for multipurpose use, with particular emphasis on the provision of irrigation infrastructure and the control of flood and erosion for watershed management.

• To construct, operate and maintain reservoir dams, dykes, polders, wells, boreholes, irrigation and drainage systems and other works necessary for the achievement of the RBDAs functions and to hand over all lands to be cultivated under irrigation schemes to the farmers.

• To supply water from RBDAs completed storage schemes to all users for a fee to be determined by RBDA concerned, with the approval of the Minister of Water Resources and Rural Development

• To construct, operate and maintain infrastructure services such as roads and bridges linking projects sites, provided that such services are included forming an integral part of the approved projects.

• To develop and keep up to date comprehensive water resources master plan, identifying all water resources requirements in the RBDAs area of operation through adequate collection and collation of water resources, water use, socio-economic and environmental data of the river basin.

DEPO ADENLE ============================================================ Nigerian lawmakers to probe water resources ministry, agencies Premium Times, July 17, 2013 The lawmakers will also probe the River Basin Development Authorities. The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts said it would probe the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the River Basin Development Authorities over alleged misuse of public funds. The Chairman of the committee, Solomon Adeola, announced this in Abuja on Wednesday at a meeting with the officials of the ministry of and managing directors of the river basins. He said the ministry and its agencies had refused to appear before the committee to answer queries raised against them by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation. Mr. Adeola expressed displeasure over the manner the basin authorities were administered over the years. He said the probe, which would be in form of a public hearing, would be transmitted live on television stations across the country. “It will give the managing directors the opportunity to speak to Nigerians on how funds allocated to them were administered’’, he said. Mr. Adeola explained that the action became necessary following the refusal of the agencies to honour several invitations of the committee.

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