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NGO bill: Dogara dismisses critics, raises more issues



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House of Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara has declared as welcome public criticism of the content of the controversial NGO regulatory bill.
“Public criticism of the content of the Bill is a welcome development and there are many who are doing just that,” he said to the House reconvening after a two-week break in Tuesday.
“I hasten to say that all Nigerians and other corporate persons including non-Nigerians, are stakeholders and have a right to support or oppose a bill,” he said.
But he noted that when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution of the legislature, then it becomes necessary to interrogate the motives driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know.
According to him, the principal objective of the bill is to inject transparency, accountability and prevent the subversion of national security from both within and without.
“No one can nor indeed should gag the operations of NGOs in Nigeria,” Dogara said.  “But just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such thing as freedom to be irresponsible.”
He also said the bill has nothing to do with churches, mosques, esusu, market women associations as well as local quasi financial institutions—as claimed by some lawmakers.
The Speaker insisted the National Assembly cannot be intimidated into abandoning its sacred legislative duties of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure.
“This openness and transparency is what the NGOs have always canvassed and promoted and they should therefore embrace this opportunity to interrogate the issues with open arms.”
The NGO regulatory bill, sponsored by Dep. House Leader Umar Jinrin, has passed second reading in the House of Representatives and is at the committee level. It seeks to establish an NGO regulatory agency, among others.
The agency would be headed by an executive secretary and a 17-member governing Board to be appointed by the Nigerian president for a five-year tenure.
‎Critics have described the bill as a gag.
Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, pointed to the establishment of the NOGO regulator trying to open critical NGOs to manipulation by the state.
Kaduna Sen. Shehu Sani has also vowed to oppose the bill and said he would oppose it when it comes to the Senate.