By Yemi Adedeji, Abuja
The Africa Centre for Leadership Strategy & Development (Centre LSD) has decried the attempt by the National Assembly to pass the proposed Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) regulation bill into law, describing it as toxic.
It called on civil society organisations, NGOs, international organisations and all well-meaning Nigerians to come out enmass for the public hearing on the bill slated for the 13th-14th December 2017, at the National Assembly complex.
Victoria Oseyande Udoh, Programme Coordinator of the Centre, in a statement on Thursday said that the attempt to clamp down on civil society was not a surprise.
She stressed that Nigerian government first indicated its wish to take tough action on civil societies in Nigeria when on the 1st of July 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 stated: “This bill portends a great threat to the hard-earned democracy in Nigeria. The goal of this bill is to curb voluntary organisations, stifle free speech, restricting other political freedoms 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 and counts.
“This bill therefore should not be allowed to see the light of the day. In addition, the proposed bill is against the principles of Open Government Partnership (OGP) being pursued by the President Buhari administration which requires co-creation and equal partnership between government and civil society,” she said.
The bill which is currently being debated at the National Assembly has reached the point of almost being passed if nothing is done about it.
The NGO Regulation Bill proposes the creation of a federal agency responsible for the supervision, coordination and monitoring of NGOs and CSOs 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.