‘NGO Regulatory Bill: Why Nigerian government has it all wrong’
When has the Nigerian government ever gotten anything right? BudgIT a civic technology company focused on promoting good governance in Nigeria by simplifying the government’s budget, made me aware of the recent non-governmental regulatory bill. Using info-graphs, maps, and mobile applications, BudgIT aims to make public data accessible and easier to understand – well the company achieved its mission because I became aware of a new bill.
Sponsored by Umar Buba Jibril, Deputy House Leader for the Lokoja-Kogi Federal Constituency, the proposed non-governmental regulatory bill aims to erode the independence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) by overburdening them with regulations and fines. It should be on record that this is not the first time a similar bill will be proposed. On June 30, 2014 Eddie Mbadiwe, a member of the House of Representatives representing Imo state sponsored a bill with the aim to regulate international funding to non-governmental bodies in Nigeria. Why are Nigerian lawmakers focused on destroying the independence of NGOs and CSOs? The reality is that the strength of non-governmental and civil society organizations lie in its independence from government.
Nigeria is currently in a recession and a majority of Nigerians are living in poverty. Toke Ibru, executive director at The Guardian Newspapers Nigeria writes on Instagram, “there has been a significant increase in the number of vacant properties in the upper-class real estate neighborhoods of Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi.”
The recent report by the Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) attributes the rise in the number of vacant properties to a combination of rising inflation, GDP contraction, falling consumer confidence and increasing unemployment rates.
To date, NGOs have continuously filled a gap where government has not, cannot and will not. Using various social media platforms to include twitter and Instagram, Nigerians on an all too frequent basis come together to support an NGO in paying the medical bill of an average citizen or to sponsor the education of a child. NGOs provide a multilateral approach to supporting Nigeria’s failing healthcare and educational system, or simply to provide daily meals to orphans or to support our farmers. Once again, why are Nigerian lawmakers focused on destroying the independence of NGOs and CSOs?
A regulatory body will only increase corruption as Nigeria lacks the transparent system and open culture needed to make this work. How many NGOs will be forced to bribe officials in order to get their organizations approved? BudgIT for instance, has promoted the #OpenNASS campaign for several years now – a campaign focused on increasing the standards of transparency and citizenship engagement at the National Assembly. To date, they are yet to be taken seriously and their request granted. If NASS refuses to be transparent how do we expect them to create a transparent regulatory body? This is not practical, unethical and unfair.
I implore the Nigerian government to figure out other ways to create a sustainable revenue stream. Overburdening NGOs and CSOs is not the answer nor is this the appropriate response to the current economic situation at hand. Creating a regulatory commission of all-boys club is not the answer. NASS should focus on other urgent priorities like finding ways to eliminate Boko Horam, ensuring that Nigeria remains competitive in the global market, establishing energy incentives for small business owners, improving our failing education and healthcare system or more importantly, figuring out ways to create jobs for our youths – have you seen or even noticed the increasing youth unemployment numbers? There are loads of problems to be solved and the NGO regulatory bill should not be one of them.
Olushoga is founder, AWP Network