MANY Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations protested loudly on Wednesday in Abuja, demanding that the House of Representatives should trash a proposed bill to regulate NGOs and CSOs in the country.
They got the backing of some prominent individuals, including the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most. Rev. Matthew Kukah, who asked that the bill be dropped.
The House Committee on Civil Society and Development Partners, conducted a public hearing on the bill on Wednesday.
The committee is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Edo State, Mr. Peter Akpatason.
The NGO bill seeks to regulate the activities of NGOs and CSOs by establishing a Commission, a Governing Board and making provisions for the registration/licensing of NGOs.
The bill was sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House and member of the APC from Kogi State, Mr. Buba Jibril.
But, as the hearing opened at the National Assembly, lawmakers appeared to be overwhelmed by the opposition to the bill.
Hundreds of members of civil society groups and NGOs turned up at the venue, demanding that the bill must be stopped.
Hundreds more, who could not gain access into the premises of the National Assembly, protested at the Federal Secretariat and along the busy Shehu Shagari Way in the heart of Abuja.
Inside the venue of the hearing, many representatives of the NGOs and CSOs made presentations to the committee.
The summary of their opposition to the bill was generally the same, which was to allow the organisations to operate freely without being muzzled by government regulation.
They noted that regulating NGOs was an infringement on the rights of Nigerians to freedom of speech.
They also kicked against the provision, which required NGOs to be registered under the proposed commission.
Various speakers argued that this would mean double registration or an attempt to outlaw all existing NGOs that had already been registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission.
They also stated that by their names, NGOs were independent bodies which were not accountable to government. They added that such organisations should not be asked to state their sources of funding or be required periodically to renew their registration.
Kukah, who lent his voice to the protest, reminded the lawmakers the role CSOs played in returning the country to democratic governance in 1999.
The Catholic bishop also observed that Nigerians would have been happier if the National Assembly got itself busy with ensuring that many institutions of government that had failed in performing their duties, woke up. – Punch
– Dec 13, 2017 @ 17:03 GMT