The proposed Non-Governmental Organization Regulatory Commission Bill seeks to establish a federal agency responsible for the supervision, coordination, and monitoring of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria.
The bill sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Umar Buba Jibril representing Lokoja/Kogi Federal Constituency has generated lots of comments from affected individuals, stakeholders and respective bodies who have criticized the bill, with many seeing it as a plan to suppress civil society groups in Nigeria.
The implication of this bill, if passed into law, will translate to all NGOs being registered with the commission and issued a license to operate in Nigeria which will no doubt give powers to the commission to either refuse or withdraw licenses on a political basis. In other words, if an NGO were refused a license, it would not be able to operate in Nigeria even if they have been previously registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
NGOs would also need to renew their licenses every two years and divulge their funding and how they wish to spend the money to the commission before spending.
The bill will also starve NGOs of funding where it was stated that “Any organization registered under this Act shall not be entitled to diplomatic or consular privileges or immunities”. This will have a negative causal effect on NGOs that relies majorly on international grants to carry out its responsibilities.
For international NGOs, the bill includes a clause that all prospective foreign employees must have a work permit before being able to work in the country. It would also limit the use of foreign consultants to only disciplines where local expertise is unavailable. In addition, all NGO vehicles will have to be branded with the organization’s logo. This may not go down well with NGOs that have to operate in volatile regions as it unduly reveals their identity.
In view of this, there is hope that the constant pressure and calls from local and international bodies will quash the bill’s passage to a law.
Kehinde Richard Fashua (a volunteer with EiE Nigeria) writes from Lagos.
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