Across the social media, a mass mobilisation against a proposed law to regulate the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has begun on the adjoining streets of the information super-highway, amidst whispers of allegations of subversive activities against many NGOs with international affiliations by government agents.
“They don’t need to employ spies to come here again when they can provide jobs to our people, and under the guise of of all kinds of helps, use them as foot soldiers to monitor us,” said a source.
An analyst countered: “Is that so? Why go to that ludicrous extent when they have put all manner of smart technologies in place to monitor even our snores at night? Get real! Everybody hears and knows what you say or think when you speak and write on these smart platforms? Why are we so neandenthal in our ways? Collect the money, collect the jobs, make people’s lives better, because there are more sophisticated ways of monitoring today than use of fifth columnists with boots on ground.”
The conbill seeks to regulate all NGOs, including churches and mosques, and Nigerians are being asked to show opposition to it by signing up in a campaign document that has gained traction in the last 24 hours.
The campaign comes as a communique showing opposition to the bill re-surfaced Thursday.
The document Nigerians are being asked to sign up to reads:
I signed a petition to House of Representatives: Federal Republic of Nigeria which says:
“HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STOP THE NGO REGULATORY BILL”
Will you sign this petition? Click here:
Meantime, the copy of the communique from a section of the NGOs after a July interaction with relevant members of the House of Representatives and other stakeholders, on its part reads in full:
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATION STATEMENT AT A ONE-DAY INTERACTIVE TECHNICAL ROUNDTABLE BETWEEN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATION ON THE ‘BILL TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS COMMISSION FOR THE COORDINATION, SUPERVISION AND HARMONIZATION OF THE ACTIVITIES OF NGOS AND CSOS IN NIGERIA’ HELD ON 25 JULY 2017 AT THE ROCKVIEW ROYALE HOTEL, ABUJA
We the representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria met in Abuja on July 25, 2017 at the National Assembly & Civil Society Interactive Technical Roundtable to discuss the ‘Bill to Provide for the Establishment of the Non-Governmental Organizations Commission for the Coordination, Supervision and Harmonization of the Activities of NGOs and CSOs In Nigeria’ aka NGO Bill.
The event which was organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Civil Society and Development Partners and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) was attended by over 200 delegates from the Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and a cross-section of NGOs from all parts of the country. The meeting was convened with the main objective of bringing legislators, civil society organisations and other stakeholders together to harness broad based inputs into the draft NGO Bill.
Following the days’ brainstorming session, common narratives and proposals towards the NGO Bill, CSO articulated the following:
CSOs observed that the enactment of the bill and establishment of a commission to regulate the activities of NGOs and CSOs in Nigeria is not necessary for the following reasons:
· It will be a duplication of duties by existing governmental agencies such as the Corporate Affairs Commission, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, National Planning Commission, etc. which are already performing such statutory role as the registration, supervisions, monitoring of the activities of CSOs AND NGOs in Nigeria. Otherwise, all the existing governmental regulatory bodies overseeing the activities of NGOs would need to be dissolved or abrogated.
· It will negatively affect the ability of NGOs and CSOs to function without political interference, which negates the principle of independence of civil society which several international standards recognize and expect countries to respect;
· The Bill seeks to limit the scope of NGOs and CSOs to work in multiple thematic areas and diversify the sources of accessing resources;
· The Bill is intended to suppress the voices of CSOs engaged in social development across the country by requiring to them to renew their legal identity every 24 months, considering the strategic roles of demanding accountability from government and its officials;
· The Bill as presented, contradicts the spirit of the Executive Order on the Ease of Business as well the Open Government Ppartnership to which Nigeria has acceded;
· The Bill exposes NGOs to the bureaucratic operations of Government which has tendencies of delaying humanitarian responses and other necessary rapid responses in times of emergency by NGOs, which is their trademark;
· There is nowhere in the world where Governmental regulation of NGOs has helped to deepen the operations of NGOs instead it has always muzzled their operations existence;
· Governmental regulation of NGOs is antithetic to open democratic practices anywhere in the world as it appears that the Commission will be become another Governmental NGO Police;
· The Bill is in breach of section 39 of Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria on the right for free of association and expression;
· Annual appropriations for critical social sectors are not receiving adequate funding. The setting up of the commission will further stress the financial resources of the country and will become a liability;
· Using NGOs and CSOs to generate IGR will put undue burden on CSOs and NGOs;
· The acceptance of gifts and properties by the commission from organizations will propagate corruption as contained in the Bill;
· There is no provision for an independent audit for the commission and no mechanism for mediation and arbitration where NGOs can go for redress.
· We note with concern that the presentation of this Bill is has been recurrent with each session of the national Assembly and seems to indicate limited knowledge in the operations of CSOs in Nigeria
We observe that the present feeling that NGOs are not well regulated is because of the weakness or inadequacies of existing regulatory agencies of government and so we recommend the following:
· First and foremost, the Bill should be stepped down and left to die, as it is retrogressive, repressive and should not be considered. We consider it unfavorable to national development and call on the National Assembly not to act on it.
· Existing governmental regulatory institutions should be strengthened to perform the role they are already mandated to perform;
· Rather than create another Commission, the National Assembly should exercise their oversight function to enable the existing governmental agencies to perform their functions;
· The government should create a conducive environment for the operation of NGOs for effective service delivery in the interest of our teeming population.
We unequivocally state that this Bill is inconsistent with open democratic practices and therefore should be thrown out without further discussion. We urge the government not to introduce legislations that could jeopardize the work of NGOs, for the greater good of the country, as we would continue to oppose any restriction to what we consider as key indices of a true democratic state.