NGO Reg­u­la­tory Bill:

To Be Or Not To Be

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE -

THERE is no doubt that the on­go­ing de­bate in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to reg­u­late the ac­tiv­i­ties of NonGovern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOS) and Civil So­ci­ety Or­gan­i­sa­tions (CSOS) has been trailed with mixed re­ac­tions.

This is de­spite the ex­pla­na­tion of the spon­sor of the bill, Deputy Ma­jor­ity Leader in the House, Buba Jib­ril, that the mo­tive be­hind the bill was to en­trench ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency in the ac­tiv­i­ties of NGOS and CSOS through proper reg­u­la­tion.

Jib­ril had al­leged that some NGOS have cap­i­talised on the plight of In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDPS) camps in the North­east re­gion to raise funds but had largely mis­man­aged such funds.

The bill which, has passed the sec­ond read­ing in the lower cham­ber, pro­posed the cre­ation of an NGO Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (NRC) that would over­see the ac­tiv­i­ties of non-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions.

When passed into law, the com­mis­sion would be over­seen by a 17-mem­ber board with a Chair­man and an Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, who will be ap­pointed by the Pres­i­dent, while the board will be re­spon­si­ble for the li­cens­ing of NGOS and CSOS.

So, sur­pris­ing is the fact that those who are op­posed to the bill do not deny that such NGOS reg­u­la­tory body are not in ex­is­tence in other coun­tries of the world and that some of them op­er­at­ing in Nige­ria are not cor­rupt.

For in­stance, in Egypt, NGOS must ob­tain gov­ern­ment’s ap­proval be­fore re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from donors. A five-year jail term awaits any civil so­ci­ety ac­tivist with for­eign links with­out gov­ern­ment’s im­pri­matur, ac­cord­ing to the law reg­u­lat­ing NGO op­er­a­tions.

Be­sides, the re­lo­ca­tion of the orig­i­nally reg­is­tered head­quar­ters of an or­gan­i­sa­tion at­tracts one-year jail term and a huge fine.

Also in Kenya, the com­mis­sion that reg­u­lates NGOS, on Au­gust 14, 2017, shut down the Africa Cen­tre for Open Gov­er­nance and Kenya Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion. They were crit­i­cised for shoddy prepa­ra­tions in the re­cently con­cluded pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which the Supreme Court an­nulled on the grounds of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. What fol­lowed were charges of tax eva­sion and ad­min­is­tra­tive lapses against them.

It is, how­ever, not out of place that the fear of Nige­ri­ans be­ing sub­jected to sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence men­tioned above and the kind of op­pres­sive tac­tics by the pro­posed reg­u­la­tory body, that some Nige­ri­ans are ve­he­mently op­posed to the bill see­ing the light of the day.

Many have ar­gued that the spon­sor of the bill has sin­is­ter mo­tive of gag­ging the NGOS and CSOS, but oth­ers are of the view that if the bill is in line with the in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices, it should be sup­ported, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing lack of ac­count­abil­ity and cases of cor­rup­tion that have char­ac­terised the ac­tiv­i­ties of some NGOS and CSOS in Nige­ria.

An­other school of thought ar­gued that there are enough laws al­ready to reg­u­late the ac­tiv­i­ties of NGOS, thereby it amounts to waste of re­sources and du­pli­ca­tion of roles to cre­ate an­other reg­u­la­tory body. So dis­turb­ing is the fact that even in the face of these pos­tu­la­tions and ar­gu­ments over the bill, it ap­pears the lead­er­ship of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is not re­lent­ing in forg­ing ahead with its pas­sage.

Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dog­ara, con­firmed its de­ter­mi­na­tion to make the bill sail through and even­tu­ally be­come law in his open­ing speech at the House re­sump­tion on Wed­nes­day.

Jib­ril By Sam­son Ezea


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