March 20, 2020

CISLAC commends NASS for dropping Civil Society Regulation Bill

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Calls for same for Social Media, Hate Speech Bills

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Friday, commended the National Assembly for dropping the Civil Society Regulatory Bill.

This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, where the organization described the action as heeding to the voice of the masses.

Rafsanjani said: “The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) would like to, amongst other things, commend the House of Representatives and in particular Hon. Tajudeen Abbas (Bill sponsor) for heeding to the voice of the masses and dropping the controversial Civil Society Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2020.

“This is quite commendable and shows that the members of the House of Representatives have a listening ear and are ready to consider the developmental impact of their decisions on the masses.”

He also pointed out that there is no need for establishing a regulatory Commission for CSOs as there are other laws that control their activities.

READ ALSO: CISLAC lauds Reps for dropping CSOs’ Bill

“We would like to mention here that there is no need to establish a Commission for regulation of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as they are already regulated by a number of existing laws.

“The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) ensures non-profit funds are subjected to appropriate taxes and exemptions; Financial Reporting Council ensures that audit reports produced by non-profits are in line with the International Financial Reporting Standards and that auditors providing services to the sector are doing the right thing; and the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) ensures compliance with anti-money laundering regulations”, he said.

However, the CISLAC boss called on NASS to consider dropping the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, also known as the Social Media Bill; the Hate Speech (Prohibition) Bill, 2019.

“Having taken this step in the right direction, we would like to call on the members of the National Assembly to extend this gesture to other controversial bills – the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, also known as the Social Media Bill; the Hate Speech (Prohibition) Bill, 2019 and the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Est. etc.) Bill, 2019.

“It is worthy of note that while the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, also known as the Social Media Bill plagiarizes a similar Bill by the Singapore parliament, the latter explicitly define some terms, while the Nigerian bill leaves a lot in the air with frightening ambiguity

“While there is a need to control the spread of false information, the danger lies in being a victim of the relativity of the interpretation of the terms ‘Falsehood’ and ‘Truth’, which not only gives the government a monopoly on the truth but violates the enshrined constitutional rights to freedom of expression”, he said.

He also condemned the Bills and described them as intended draconian laws that could throw the country into civil unrest.

“We condemn the aforementioned Bills in their entirety as we believe that the punitive sanctions prescribed by the Hate Speech Bill are extreme considering the current civil reactive unrest in Nigeria. The Bills seek to create Draconian laws that only a non-democratic government can tolerate and one that will infringe on the rights of citizens”, he said.

However, he urged NASS to focus on laws that would provide a legal framework for development, curbing corruption, promote accountability, reduce waste in every level of governance, protect the rights of citizens, and others.

READ ALSO: Again, Bill to regulate CSOs suffers defeat at House of Reps

“We would like to point out that it will be more pertinent for the National Assembly to concentrate more on the legal frameworks and processes that will contribute to the developmental agenda, curbing corruption and promoting transparency and accountability in governance, bearing in mind that the major legislative function is to strengthen oversight over every stratum of government to ensure that wastage is reduced to the barest minimum”, he said.

He also pointed out that CSOs are partners in national development, economic growth, the welfare of citizens, complementing government policies, programmes, and projects instead of seen as antagonists.

“It should be strongly noted that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are not in competition with the government but act to complement the genuine effort and strides of the government.

“We also want to use this opportunity to reiterate our willing support to the legislature in any course that is tailored towards ensuring good governance in the country as partners in development”, he stated.