Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have called on the national assembly to throw out the bill seeking to establish a commission that would regulate non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The bill, which is better know as the NGO bill, has been in contention since last week when it came to public limelight.
TheCable had subsequently highlighted the provisions of the bill which include full disclosure of findings of the NGOs and 18-month jail term for violation of its provisions.
At a joint meeting with some lawmakers and government officials in Abuja on Saturday, representatives of the NGOs described the bill as “unconstitutional, repressive and unfavorable to national development”.
They said the enactment of the bill is not necessary as it is a “duplication of duties” of existing governmental agencies such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The bill is intended to suppress the voices of CSOs engaged in social development across the country by requiring to them to renew their legal identity every 24 months, considering the strategic roles of demanding accountability from government and its officials,” the CSOs said.
“There is nowhere in the world where governmental regulation of NGOs has helped to deepen the operations of NGOs instead it has always muzzled their operations existence.
“Governmental regulation of NGOs is antithetic to open democratic practices anywhere in the world as it appears that the commission will become another governmental NGO police.
“The bill is in breach of section 39 of constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the right for free of association and expression.”
The CSOs said rather than create another commission to regulate operations of the NGOs, “existing governmental regulatory institutions should be strengthened to perform the role they are already mandated to perform.
“The bill should be stepped down and left to die, as it is retrogressive, repressive and should not be considered. We consider it unfavorable to national development and call on the National Assembly not to act on it.
“Existing governmental regulatory institutions should be strengthened to perform the role they are already mandated to perform.
“The national assembly should exercise their oversight function to enable the existing governmental agencies to perform their functions.
“The government should create a conducive environment for the operation of NGOs for effective service delivery in the interest of our teeming population.
“We urge the government not to introduce legislations that could jeopardize the work of NGOs, for the greater good of the country, as we would continue to oppose any restriction to what we consider as key indices of a true democratic state.”