Reps explain controversial NGO Bill, lists exemptions

The House of Representatives has given an insight into the controversial Bill for an Act to regulate the operations of Non Governmental Oranisations (NGOs) in Nigeria, a piece of legislation that critics describe as the latest among measures to constrain the civic space and destroy dissent.

Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Umar Jibril, said in a statement on Friday, that the fraudulent activities of some of NGOs and their excesses necessitated a law to put them in check, adding that recent development has shown that some Nigerians had registered NGOs, solicited for funds and disappeared, while some NGOs had been used to fund the activities of terrorist and insurgents,

He said many NGOs operating in Nigeria do not have definite reason for being in existence other than using their names to fleece international donor agencies of huge sums of money on behalf of Nigeria.

Jibril alleged that some of the NGOs had even solicited funds on behalf of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the north-east and made away with all they got.

The lawmaker said some NGOs with questionable backgrounds were fond of recruiting expatriates to help them run their activities in the country and perpetrating fraud and other vices.

He noted that many of the NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have shied away from reasons they were set up, which is to operate as voluntary organisations and registered to partner with the government, essentially to fill gaps between the government and the governed

Jibril added that the NGOs ought to be partners in progress with the government, whereas their failure to fulfill this role had necessitated the need to create  a Commission through the bill to regulate their activities.

According to the lawmaker, the NGOs Bill, therefore, is primarily to set up a commission to regulate their activities and provide a platform for robust relationships between them and the government for the interests of Nigerians.

He said the NGOs Bill is not new or peculiar to Nigeria, adding that it exists in many countries particularly in the ECOWAS sub- region and all over Africa and other continents.

To further clear any lingering doubts, the house deputy minority leader explained  that Churches, Mosques, Esusu, Market Women Associations, Religious bodies and organizations are not NGO and so would not be affected by the Bill if passed into law.

Critics of the legislation have raised concerns that the Bill comprises sections of extraordinarily bad drafting, jumbled thinking and un-concealed ill-will.

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