Wants other controversial bills dropped
By Dirisu Yakubu – Abuja
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Friday, commended the House of Representatives for stopping further debate on the Civil Society Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2020, saying the development was an indication that they are truly the representatives of the diverse people that make up the Nigerian state.
The bill, sponsored by Honourable Tajudeen Abbas, a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, representing Zaria Federal Constituency was intended to establish “a Civil Society Regulatory Commission for Coordinated Regulation of Civil Society Organizations, CSOs for the purposes of strengthening their capacities to promote democracy and development in the country.”
Commending the bold steps by the lawmaker, CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani in a statement said the bill was ab initio unnecessary as there are existing laws sufficient to regulate the conduct of CSOs operating in the country.
The statement read in part: “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,
“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.”
While picking holes in the Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, Rafsanjani said the proposed law “plagiarizes a similar bill by the Singapore parliament, the latter explicitly defines some terms, while the Nigerian bill leaves a lot in the air with frightening ambiguity.”
He continued: “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.
“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,” stressing that “he Bills seek to create draconian laws that only a non-democratic government can tolerate and one that will infringe on the rights of citizens.”
The organization, therefore, tasked the National Assembly to expedite actions on legislations capable of contributing “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.”