SERAP Urges UN to Stop House from Pass­ing Bill to Weaken CSOs

THISDAY - - NEWSXTRA -

A civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion, So­cio-Eco­nomic Rights and Ac­count­abil­ity Project (SERAP), has asked three United Na­tions spe­cial rap­por­teurs to pres­sure the Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Yakubu Dog­ara, and others Na­tional Assem­bly lead­ers to with­draw a bill seek­ing to mon­i­tor civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions (CSOs).

The bill, ac­cord­ing to seeks to es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion that would mon­i­tor, su­per­vise, de-reg­is­ter, and pre-ap­prove all ac­tiv­i­ties by civil so­ci­ety, labour, com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tions, and the me­dia, in the coun­try.

The bill will es­tab­lish a com­mis­sion re­spon­si­ble only to the pres­i­dent and the se­nate. Un­der sec­tion 7, the com­mis­sion will mon­i­tor and su­per­vise th­ese groups sup­pos­edly to “en­sure that they ac­com­plish their mis­sions ac­cord­ing to law” and un­der sec­tion 26, strictly “in line with the pro­grammes of gov­ern­ment.”

The ap­peal, dated July 28 and signed by the group’s Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Adetokunbo Mu­muni, was sent to An­nal­isa Ci­ampi, spe­cial rap­por­teur on the rights to free­dom of peace­ful assem­bly and of as­so­ci­a­tion; Michel Forst, spe­cial rap­por­teur on the sit­u­a­tion of hu­man rights de­fend­ers; and David Kaye, spe­cial rap­por­teur on the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of the right to free­dom of opinion and ex­pres­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to SERAP, the bill, if signed into law, “would se­verely cur­tail the rights of all Nige­ri­ans to free­dom of ex­pres­sion and free­dom of peace­ful assem­bly and as­so­ci­a­tion in the coun­try.”

It fur­ther said: “The sole ob­jec­tive of the green cham­bers is to weaken and dele­git­imise the work of in­de­pen­dent and cred­i­ble civil so­ci­ety.”

SERAP urged the UN to pre­vail on the Act­ing Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo to de­cline sign­ing the bill into law.

“If adopted, the bill which is copied from re­pres­sive coun­tries like So­ma­lia, Ethiopia and Uganda, would have a chill­ing ef­fect not only on ex­pres­sions of peace­ful dis­sent by the cit­i­zens but also on the le­git­i­mate work of NGOs and in­di­vid­ual hu­man rights de­fend­ers and ac­tivists scru­ti­n­is­ing cor­rup­tion in the Na­tional Assem­bly and ex­pos­ing hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions by the gov­ern­ment,” the ap­peal read.

“SERAP is se­ri­ously con­cerned that the bill is by far the most danger­ous piece of leg­is­la­tion in the coun­try in terms of its reach and dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences not only for the work of civil so­ci­ety but also the ef­fec­tive en­joy­ment of con­sti­tu­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised hu­man rights of the cit­i­zens. The bill will dev­as­tate the coun­try’s civil so­ci­ety for gen­er­a­tions to come and turn it into a gov­ern­ment pup­pet.

“The bill is a fur­ther path of clos­ing civic space in the coun­try, some­thing wit­nessed only un­der mil­i­tary regimes, and has no place in a demo­cratic Nige­ria. The bill is en­tirely un­nec­es­sary, as the work of civil so­ci­ety is al­ready suf­fi­ciently reg­u­lated un­der ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion, including the Com­pa­nies and Al­lied Mat­ters Act, Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) Act, the In­de­pen­dent Cor­rupt Prac­tices and Other Re­lated Of­fences Com­mis­sion (ICPC) Act and other sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

“SERAP is also con­cerned that the pro­posed bill is com­ing at a time the mem­bers of the se­nate and house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives are propos­ing amnesty and im­mu­nity for them­selves against pros­e­cu­tion for cor­rup­tion and other eco­nomic crimes; and the gov­ern­ment is propos­ing a so­cial me­dia pol­icy to re­strict and un­der­mine cit­i­zens ac­cess to the so­cial me­dia ahead of the gen­eral elec­tions in 2019.”

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