A former National Secretary of Labour Party (LP), Mr Kayode Ajulo, has dismissed the claim that the Non-Governmental Organisation Bill, currently in the works at the House of Representatives, is targeting churches, mosques and human rights groups.
“The Bill does not intend to put religious bodies and human rights bodies in the chains as posited by critics”, Ajulo said in an open letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In the letter copied to DFID, USAID, Ford Foundation, Clinton Foundation and Oxfam, among others, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Egalitarian Mission For Africa, Sure Steps Africa and Master Kayikunmi Kayode-Ajulo Memorial Foundation (all NGOs) argued that the Bill is essentially designed to regulate NGOs that obtain funding from local and international donors in form of agricultural reliefs, research and health/ medical reliefs.
“Additionally, it has been argued by critics that the Bill is a ploy by government to curtail and stifle the activities of NGOs that have held government accountable over the years. This is nothing but a misconstrued and misconceived argument”, he pointed out.
He denounced a situation whereby critics of the bill tried to bar those trying to be constructive from attending the House hearing through the use of suspected thugs, and disclosed that he had to enter the parliament through the back exit to contribute.
Saying the regulation of NGOs is a big step in the right direction, Ajulo stressed that the situation is not different from developed societies such as the US and the UK where NGOs are regulated as a matter of due process.
“It is also correct that while anyone can register an NGO in the United States, the founder or founders must publish an audited annual account to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to retain the status of the NGO. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, NGOs are regulated by the Charity Commission for England and Wales”.
“Rather than the proposed bill being labelled as ‘the worst piece of legislation since return to democracy in 1999’, it could be modified to become the best. I have a firm conviction that there should be a regulatory framework for NGOs and CSOs. To allay any fears of hijack, I will further suggest that NGOs should be made accountable to the National Assembly in the same mould that Public Complaints Commission is presently constituted”.