By Elizabeth Uwandu
The Committee for Relevant Act, CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria has described plans by the National Assembly to pass the Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, Regulation Bill as a threat to freedom of civil association and Nigeria’s rich art and cultural heritage.
CORA, in a statement by the Chairman, Jahman Anikulapo, and National Coordinator, Ayodele Ganiu, said the bill will not only restrict the active constitutional role of civil bodies, but also limit arts’ contributions to the promotion of Nigerian cultural heritage,
The statement read: ‘’The controversial bill seeks to set up a federal agency—NGO Regulatory Commission— to regulate activities of civil society organisations.
“If passed into law, the news agency will be empowered to issue licences to all NGOs, renewable every two years. In the event of the agency’s refusal to renew any group’s licence, that NGO will cease to operate.
“Every NGO will also have to receive permission before it executes projects. Its board will also interface with how funds received from donors are spent, and if any NGO spends without the agency’s permission, it will amount to a crime which attracts a jail term of up to 18 months.
“CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria notes with concerns the misplaced priority and desperation of some politicians to pass a bill that will do nothing but restrict the capacity of civil society bodies to actively play their constitutional roles in a democratic society.
“The bill is not in the interest of the country in general and the arts and culture sector in particular. Many art organisations in Nigeria are registered as NGOs.
“Not only do they promote the rich culture and heritage of Nigerians, art organisations play prominent role in civic education and public enlightenment, which strengthens democracy and human rights.
“Many art NGOS organise book festivals, film festivals, exhibitions, live concerts and other cultural events that provide platforms for artists’ works, some of which critique government policies.”