News

July 21, 2016

Dogara must end debate on bill to regulate civil society — NUJ, NLC, SERAP, others

Dogara must end debate on bill to regulate civil society — NUJ, NLC, SERAP, others

By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Abdulwahab Abdulah, with agency reports

LAGOS— Some civil society groups in Nigeria have condemned a bill before the House of Representatives which “seeks to properly supervise, monitor and co-ordinate Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in Nigeria.”

Dogara-House

The groups are Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP; Women Advocates and Documentation Centre, WARDC; Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative, WELA; Partnership for Justice, and Committee for Defence of Human Rights, CDHR.

The groups in a statement, yesterday, signed on their behalf by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, expressed deep concern that the National Assembly was pursuing anti-people and anti-civil society agenda by using its law-making powers to wage a deliberate campaign to shield its members from accountability.

The statement read in part: “The latest in the series of obnoxious and repressive bills being promoted in the National Assembly is the so-called bill to establish a regulatory commission to monitor the work of civil society organizations in the country, which passed second reading in the House of Representatives at a plenary session on July 14, 2016, under the leadership of

Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who is pushing, promoting and fast-tracking the bill.

“Under the bill, civil society and community groups including the labour union, association of journalists, association of teachers, association of market women, human rights NGOs and other civil society bodies will face intrusive and unwarranted surveillance of their operations.

“Like the anti-social media bill, the anti-civil society bill would seriously violate citizens’ human rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, preventing them from freely forming organizations, meeting together and criticizing the abuse of legislative powers and allegations of massive corruption in the National Assembly.

“We, therefore, call on the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to use his leadership position to ensure the withdrawal of the anti-civil society bill from the House.

“We will take all appropriate legal actions, nationally and internationally, to ensure that the bill is dropped and promote the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in Nigeria.”

NASS has no power to make rules for CSOs
Reacting to the development, factional President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Mr. Joe Ajaero, contended that the National Assembly had no right or power to make laws to govern or regulate the activities of civil society groups.

According to him, “Nigeria Bar Association, NBA; Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ; Christians Association of Nigeria, CAN; National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, among others, make their own rules on how they operate. Even armed robbers make their rules on how they operate.

“The National Assembly has no power to make rules for civil society groups. Well, if they decide to engage in a futile exercise, like every other bad law, it will not be obeyed. It will be a different thing, if the lawmakers decide to make laws to strengthen the civil society groups.”

If it’ll bring sanity, so be it—Lagos NUJ
On his part, the Lagos NUJ chairman, Deji Elumoye, said: “I stand with the word regulating the civil society organisations but not checkmating their genuine activities.

“A situation where we have numerous organisations existing without creditable identity cannot be encouraged. However, if the idea is to gag the credible ones, we are not in support of that. So, if what the lawmakers intend to do will bring internal credibility to CSOs in Nigeria, so be it.”