CSOs reject NGOs regulatory bill, want operational independence

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Major players and stakeholders in the nation’s civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have rejected the proposed bill to regulate their activities.

They told members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday that the bill should be “killed without hesitation to allow for independence” of their operations.

Making presentations before the House of Representatives Committee on NGOs and Development Partners in Abuja, civil society groups and non-governmental organisations that appeared at the public hearing organised by the Peter Ehiozoje Akpatason-led committee kicked against the proposed bill.

The bill had raised controversy when it was first presented for debate in the House.

The bill seeks the mandate to establish a body responsible for the supervision, coordination and monitoring of non-governmental organisations and CSOs in Nigeria with the aim of enabling them to accomplish their various missions in a transparent manner and be accountable for their operations.

But CSOs and NGOs saw the bill as another draconian law aimed at stifling their operations which, they said, was purely targeted at humanitarian services.

One of the stakeholders and a founder of an NGO, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, in his brief presentation, told the gathering that “without democracy, civil society will always be in danger and there should always be a convergence of ideas between the government and the other side of the divide.”

He added: “We are not short of laws but implementation has always been a problem and delivering of service is a big problem.”

Toeing the same line, the Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, noted that there were already sufficient laws guiding civil society groups.

“It is a consensus among all CSOs that there are sufficient laws to guide activities of CSOs, and the country does not need more of such bills to do so.

“It will be recalled that it was this same CSOs that fought for democracy and many in the process lost their lives to struggle for democracy,” he said.

According to Nwankwo, “The bill was primarily designed to address the issues in the North East following the insurgency and it has been addressed, so there was no need for this particular bill.”

Jennifer Jalovec, a director of Nigeria/NGO Forum, also told the committee that “the bill jeopardises the activities of the organisation, as such it should be dropped.”

Declaring the public hearing open, Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Babangida Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), said the role of CSOs and NGOs could not be overemphasised, especially in a democracy where the wellbeing of the people was of great importance.

On his part, chairman of the committee, Akpatason, explained the critical importance of the hearing as it relates to guiding the committee in reaching an informed opinion from stakeholders.

It is not yet clear, after this outright rejection, if the House and the National Assembly would go ahead to carry out further legislative work on the proposed law.

The public hearing was meant to aggregate views from stakeholders in order to pass them to the House.

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