By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
A cross section of civil society organisations has raised the alarm over federal government’s continual interference with civic activities in the country.
Speaking during a roundtable on expanding civil society space in Nigeria with the theme ‘Protecting and expanding civic space in Nigeria; strategies and tactics’ organised by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) in Abuja, the programme director of the centre, Mr Monday Osasah, said the is restricting activities of CSO’s.
He said; “Even though the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom for peaceful assembly and expression, with citizens being able to express their opinion, including carrying out peaceful protest, government action over the years has continued to be a threat including regulating the activities of civil society organisations. The government has continuously sought ways to regulate civil society organisations putting in place restrictions on their funding, taxes, membership, registration, and thus inhibiting their functionality.”
“Government efforts to resist the civic space are usually explained in terms of protecting national interest and national security. This is exacerbated by many international regulations and treaties that governments have either ratified or agreed to its implementation.”
According to him, “The Nigerian government on July 1, 2016, voted against Human Rights Council of the United Nations resolution which require states to create and maintain a law and practice a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity.
“In 2014, the Nigerian Parliament introduced a bill to regulate and strangulate CSOs in Nigeria. Nigerian civil society responded in one accord and the bill was killed after a public hearing. In the early part of 2016, another bill was sponsored by Hon. Umar Buba Jibril from Kogi State to regulate NGOs in Nigeria. The bill sought to register NGOs, regulate their finances, approve plans and budget for NGOs and compel them to renew their registration every two years. All geared towards stifling NGOs and their contribution to democracy and development.”
Osasah said the roundtable is aimed at providing the opportunity for Nigerian civil society activists, legal practitioners, academics, and social justice advocates to mobilise in the face of an increasingly repressive and hostile working environment.
In his remarks, the director of Global Agenda for Total Emancipation (GATE), Mr Tim Aniebonam, urged CSOs to connect with their local communities who are the main owners of power, not the government.
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