The controversial Non-Governmental Organization Regulatory Commission Bill suffered a major set back at the public hearing organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and International Development Partners on 13th December 2017.
The NGO Bill was introduced by Umar Buba representing Kogi State and has passed through the first and second reading at the house of representatives.
The bill proposed the establishment of an NGO Regulatory Commission to supervise, coordinate, and monitor all activities of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria. If passed into law, the commission will be empowered to
- Approve all NGO projects before execution.
- Register/Deregister NGOs.
- Monitor all source of funding to NGOs amongst other roles.
The establishment of such commission, according to human right activists is a plot by the government to disrupt the activities of NGOs and erode their independence.
Several civil societies stormed Abuja to register their displeasure for the bill. Protesters with various inscriptions such as ‘#NoNGOBill’, ‘NGOs Do Good Work’, proceeded from the National Human Rights Commision peacefully to the venue of the hearing.
At the hearing, none of the participants supported the bill. A foremost cleric, Bishop Mathew Kukah, in his presentation to the lawmakers opposed the bill.
“I think we should divert our energies to other things, the greatest benefit for us in a democracy is freedom,” he said.
Abdul Oroh, a former deputy chairman of the house committee on human rights also opposed the bill and advised members of the house of representatives to support NGOs in other to strengthen democracy.
“You cannot be accountable to government if you are not a government organization,” he said.
Since its introduction, the NGO Bill has been widely criticized and according to Chidi Odinkalu, the former chairman of the National Human Rights Commision, the bill is the most dangerous piece of legislation since Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.