BY NKECHI ISAAC, Abuja –
Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have decried attempt by the National Assembly to pass the proposed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) regulation bill into law, describing it as a threat to the nation’s hard-earned democracy.
Addressing journalists during a media parley, on the bill to provide for the establishment of the NGOs Commission for the coordination, supervision and harmonisation of the activities of NGOs and CSOs in Nigeria, convened by the African Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development (CENTRE LSD), yesterday, in Abuja, chairman of the Network of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria, Jaye Gaskia, described the bill as toxic, saying it is a calculated attempt by the government to stifle freedom of speech of the Nigerian people.
He said, “This bill is not only toxic, it portends a great threat to the hard earned democracy in Nigeria. The goal of the bill is to clamp down voluntary organisations, stifle free speech, restrict other political reforms and dishonour the tremendous sacrifices that ordinary Nigerians have made over the years to sustain democracy, protect civic life, defend civic space and ensure that every Nigerian has a voice that count.”
According to him, “We as representatives of the civil society unequivocally condemn this bill and advice the National Assembly and the government of Nigeria to withdraw this bill as we stand to say, ‘No to NGO bill’.”
In her remarks, the programme coordinator of the Centre LSD, Victoria Oseyande Udoh, said the attempt to clamp down on civil society is not a surprise as the Nigerian government first, indicated their wish to take tough action on Civil Society in Nigeria when on the July 1, 2016, it voted against the Human Rights Council of the United Nations resolution in which it urged 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.
Udoh, urged every well meaning Nigerian of goodwill to lend their voices in condemning the bill by coming out in their large number for the public hearing slated for the December 13 – 14, 2017, and encourage the National Assembly to withdraw it from consideration; and also call on the president to protect the civic space of the Nigerian territory.
The NGO Regulation Bill proposes the creation of a federal agency responsible for the supervision, coordination and monitoring of non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations in Nigeria.
The NGO Regulatory Commission, will be headed by an executive secretary appointed by the President for five years and a 17-member Governing Board, led by a Chairman, all of whom shall also be appointed by the President. The Board will have powers to license all NGOs. Without the license of the Board, no NGO can operate. The license of the NGO Board alone (not registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission) will confer legal personality and perpetual succession on NGOs.