NGO Bill, a move to gag advocacy, says LCCI
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has described the draft non-governmental organisation, NGO Bill presently under consideration in the National Assembly, as a move to gag agencies promoting the cause of inclusion and participation in the democratic process.
According to the Chamber, the NGO Bill (in its present form) will, without doubt, stifle and repress advocacy initiatives of the private sector organisations.
In its comments on the Bill, LCCI, through its Director-General, Muda Yusuf, said NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs), are a stabilising force in the Nigerian polity, and platforms through which the citizens freely express themselves to promote the cause of inclusion and participation in the democratic process.He added that the proposition of the bill has far-reaching implications for the advocacy roles and responsibilities of private sector bodies in Nigeria.
“Some of the ominous provisions of the draft bill are that all NGOs – national, local international, town unions, associations (etc) in Nigeria must register with the Commission, and be licensed for a renewable period of two years. All NGOs annual work plan and budgets must be approved by the Commission before implementation.
“Assets including motor vehicles used to build the capacity of an NGO must be done through the Commission. All organisational vehicles must be branded even in crises prone areas. The Minister can direct the Commission to sanction, punish or withdraw the licence of any of the NGO. Once any organisation does anything against government interest or position, such organisations’ license will be withdrawn”, the LCCI noted.
The Chamber however urged the National Assembly to discontinue the consideration of the bill in the interest of Nigerian democracy, transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and equity in governance.
The Chamber explained that the Nigerian CSOs and NGOs have made incredible sacrifices through rigorous advocacy to promote the ideals of transparency, democratic governance, social and political reforms. ““The outcomes of these advocacy activities have been largely beneficial to the Nigerian state, and even the political class. They led the way to keep the military at bay in political governance and enthroned democracy. They were a critical part of the struggle that put an end to military incursion into political governance,” it added.
According to the LCCI, there are adequate regulatory and institutional frameworks to make the NGOs and CSOs accountable and operate within the limits of the law.“There are the Companies and Allied Matters Act as well as the Money Laundering Act, which have robust provisions to ensure that the NGOs conduct their affairs in a manner consistent with the Nigerian laws. Besides, donor agencies have strict accountability and transparency systems and processes that guide the utilisation of donor funds by beneficiaries.
“What needs to be done is to strengthen existing regulatory and institutional frameworks for the oversight of the NGOs and Civil society organisations if there are genuine worries over the activities of some of them,” it added.
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