By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation, ACT, Programme, Wednesday, engaged stakeholders on Civil Society Organisations , CSOs, survival, sustainability, and service during and after the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
ACT organised a Webinar to facilitate the Working Group on Civil Society Regulatory Environment on Regulatory Environment and Civil Society Sustainability in Nigeria.
The event’s panel sessions featured robust discussions from several civil society experts including the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Otive Igbuzor; the Programme Manager – Civil Society and Local Authorities at the Delegation of the European Union in Nigeria, John Onyeukwu; the Executive Director of Spaces for Change (S4C); Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri; the Executive Director of Enough Is Enough Nigeria (EiE), Yemi Adamolekun; and the Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), Oluseyi Oyebisi. The event was moderated by Austin Aigbe of CDD.
Meanwhile, participants and panelists resolved to establish a multi-stakeholder engagement platform to concretely and regularly engage in specific areas of regulations and issues affecting operations and governance of CSOs in Nigeria.
The webinar became timely following the looming economic crisis resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic which has triggered funding crisis already and that will likely affect future Aid budgets and donations for CSOs.
It was hosted by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a member of the Working Group, which interrogated Civil Society structural challenges, funding issues, sustainability, and survival as well as how the regulatory environment is enabling or disabling the ability of CSOs to adequately address these challenges.
Organiser of the Webinar, ACT, it is a programme funded by the European Union, EU, and implemented by the British Council, which aims at addressing challenges facing the Nigerian civic space, especially in relation to civil society regulations, sustainability, and survival.
ACT is providing capacity strengthening support to selected civil society organisations, Networks, and Coalitions to improve their institutional mechanisms – internal, external, and programmatic competence. ACT will also facilitate platforms for multi-stakeholder dialogue for an improved and effective regulatory environment for civil society operations in Nigeria.
Additionally, the Programme’s intervention will include the provision of a platform to strengthen donor coordination on civil society engagement amongst international development partners that are working with civil society organisations in Nigeria.
Overall, ACT aims to contribute to more inclusive, effective, accountable, and gender-responsive development in Nigeria through enhancing the credibility and role of civil society organisations as drivers-of-change for sustainable development in Nigeria.
In a goodwill message, the EU representative and Panelist, John Onyeukwu, pointed out that CSOs in Nigeria lack ability to explore local philanthropy, which is basically on public trust.
Onyeukwu, said, “Part of the challenges of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) is the inability of the sector to galvanise local philanthropy which can only be done by building public trust.”
He also urged CSOs to look on alternative sources of funding rather than solely relying on international donors, who are often restrictive, thereby affect activities that would impact Nigerians positively.
Also speaking was the National Programme Manager of the ACT Programme, Mr. Damilare Babalola, while making his opening remarks explained that the Webinar creates room for positive initiatives that would tackle some of the issues affecting operations of CSOs in the country.
“This kind of forum is part of the initiatives to bridge knowledge gaps on topical issues that affect the civil society sector and which is what the ACT programme is primed to address.”
He also assured that the team would take suggestions from the outcome of the conversation in order to strengthen the civic space.
The conversation generated ideas and innovative solutions towards addressing the challenges and opportunities that funding and regulatory environment are posing to the sustainability of Civil Societies in the country, especially during the current context and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the points raised include addressing the knowledge gap within the sector, professionalism, credibility, alternative local funding sources, good research/advocacy, improvement in the use of technology, and others.
It is expected that the lessons learned from the webinar will aid civil society organizations in strategizing on funding and survival measures during and after COVID-19, adapt to regulatory measures, and become more self-compliant.
The Working Group on Civil Society Regulatory Environment plans to organise other webinars subsequently to further interrogate the subject of civil society regulatory environment.