There is no doubt that the ongoing debate in the House of Representatives to regulate the activities of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has been trailed with mixed reactions.
This is despite the explanation of the sponsor of the bill, Deputy Majority Leader in the House, Buba Jibril, that the motive behind the bill was to entrench accountability and transparency in the activities of NGOs and CSOs through proper regulation.
Jibril had alleged that some NGOs have capitalised on the plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the Northeast region to raise funds but had largely mismanaged such funds.
The bill which, has passed the second reading in the lower chamber, proposed the creation of an NGO Regulatory Commission (NRC) that would oversee the activities of non-for-profit organisations.
When passed into law, the commission would be overseen by a 17-member board with a Chairman and an Executive Secretary, who will be appointed by the President, while the board will be responsible for the licensing of NGOs and CSOs.
So, surprising is the fact that those who are opposed to the bill do not deny that such NGOs regulatory body are not in existence in other countries of the world and that some of them operating in Nigeria are not corrupt.
For instance, in Egypt, NGOs must obtain government’s approval before receiving funding from donors. A five-year jail term awaits any civil society activist with foreign links without government’s imprimatur, according to the law regulating NGO operations.
Besides, the relocation of the originally registered headquarters of an organisation attracts one-year jail term and a huge fine.Also in Kenya, the commission that regulates NGOs, on August 14, 2017, shut down the Africa Centre for Open Governance and Kenya Human Rights Commission. They were criticised for shoddy preparations in the recently concluded presidential election, which the Supreme Court annulled on the grounds of irregularities. What followed were charges of tax evasion and administrative lapses against them.
It is, however, not out of place that the fear of Nigerians being subjected to similar experience mentioned above and the kind of oppressive tactics by the proposed regulatory body, that some Nigerians are vehemently opposed to the bill seeing the light of the day.
Many have argued that the sponsor of the bill has sinister motive of gagging the NGOs and CSOs, but others are of the view that if the bill is in line with the international best practices, it should be supported, especially considering lack of accountability and cases of corruption that have characterised the activities of some NGOs and CSOs in Nigeria.
Another school of thought argued that there are enough laws already to regulate the activities of NGOs, thereby it amounts to waste of resources and duplication of roles to create another regulatory body.
So disturbing is the fact that even in the face of these postulations and arguments over the bill, it appears the leadership of the House of Representatives is not relenting in forging ahead with its passage.
Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, confirmed its determination to make the bill sail through and eventually become law in his opening speech at the House resumption on Wednesday.