By Ediale Kingsley
This is certainly not the best of times for the Nigerian House of Representatives as it has come under intense criticism from citizens following Prof. Chidi Odinkalu’s detailed video on the dangers of allowing the ‘anti-NGO’ bill, that has gone viral across Social Media platforms after about 48 hours of its release.
Specifically, the House of Representatives appears to be struggling to ‘clear’ the air on the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Regulation Bill before the House.
In a statement signed by the House Deputy Majority Leader, Umar Buba Jibril on Friday, said Religious bodies and organizations are not NGOs.
Also, it said that the quasi-financial institutions at local levels are NOT NGOs and that these organizations have existed for centuries to serve businesses and commerce for market women and traders.
While describing NGOs and CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) as voluntary organizations that are registered to partner Government at all levels to fill gaps wherever they exist, the statement said “they are supposed to be partners in progress with the Government; therefore the need for a commission to serve this purpose arises
Secondly and naturally for them to carry out their activities, the NGOs and CSOs solicit for funds from all over the World and collect billions of naira on behalf of Nigerians.
Thirdly they recruit expatriates to help them run their activities in the country with lots of abuses .”
It said, however, recent developments have shown that some people registered NGOs, solicited for funds and disappeared.
Citing an example of a recent incident hat happened in the North East.
“Some NGOs are used to fund the activities of terrorist and insurgents The NGOs bill, therefore, is primarily to set up a commission to regulate their activities and provide a platform for robust relationships between them and the government for the interests of Nigerians.” the statement said.
The house said that the bill is to ensure Transparency and Accountability in the ways and manners the NGOs collect money and use them for Nigerians.
The NGOs bill is not new or peculiar to Nigeria. It exists in many countries particularly in the ECOWAS sub-region and all over Africa and other continents. In Europe, Israel passed theirs last year! Kenya has a similar law since 1990; Nigeria is and should not be a banana republic where anything goes.
The House also condemned criticism by some NGOs on the bill particularly the SERAP reactions, describing it as shameful and condemnable.
“The Nigerian parliament is an institution governed by rules and traditions. When a bill is for public hearing you go there and present your views like other interested Nigerians and invited cooperate bodies and government agencies for the standing committee to do justice to the bill. Period!
Going on cheap propaganda and blackmail and even calling on World bodies including the United Nation to help you withdraw a bill from our National Assembly will not help you.” The statement added.
Prof Odinkalu had described the bill as the most dangerous piece of legislation to come before the National Assembly since the return of civilian rule in 1999.