If you are a Lagos resident with the intention of drilling a borehole, this piece of information must interest you.

The Lagos State House of Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill specifically criminalising sale or distribution of water by container, tanker, or any other method without a valid license issued by the Department of Water Resources.

The bill which is yet to be passed into law by Governor Akinwumi Ambode is aimed at curbing the activities of commercial water distributor but the impending danger it portends for private citizens seems to have overshadowed it.

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Section 137(1)(a) of the bill stipulates that, “No person or group of persons shall sink or cause to be sunk boreholes, hydraulic and other structures connected with the supply of surface ground water or treated water without obtaining the necessary permit from the Office of Drainage Services.”

Section 141(1)(a) says no person or group of persons shall “Abstract water from any lake, river, stream or other natural resources forming part of state water except with the approval of department of water resources of the Office of Drainage Services.

In 141(1)(c), it states that no person or group of persons shall “Make, sell, distribute or cause to be made, sold, or distributed water by container, tanker or any other method whatsoever without a valid licence being issued by the Department of Water Resources of the Office of Drainage Services.” 

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An individual convicted under the law will pay a 100,000 naira fine or serve a six month jail term or both; for an organisation, it is 500,000 naira and confiscation of  its equipment.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, while reacting to the new bill in Lagos on Monday, said: "The salt rubbed on the injury is the fact that as we speak, the public has not set eyes on the new bill to ascertain if our fears and objections raised at the Public Hearing were incorporated into what was eventually passed.”

Oluwafemi described the bill as an anti-people and would tie the hands of Lagos citizens to ambiguous agreements.

He pointed out that the bill failed to address the fate of owners of existing boreholes in the state.

Agnes Sessi, the president of African Women Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Network, said the “draconian” law would cause untold hardship to the people.

“One of our rights as citizens is to live, to have good water to drink, good environment,” said Mrs. Sessi.

“If government has failed to provide water for us, they do not have the right to take away our efforts to provide for ourselves. Do they want us to die?”