Ajulo, Joe-Odumakin disagree over regulatory bill on NGOs

Odumakin

Falana, civil groups urge rejection of proposal
Former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo and President, Women Arise for Change Initiative and Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, yesterday differed on an Act to provide for the establishment of non-governmental organisations’ regulatory commission currently being debated in the House of Representatives.

While Ajulo expressed support for the bill, Okei-Odumakin described the move by the lawmakers as the most dangerous piece of legislation.

In a statement yesterday, the former LP scribe said the establishment of a regulatory body would ensure that NGOs are driven by passion and not by financial inducement, which has been the major reasons why many Nigerians have now become emergency NGO founders, cautioned that the bill should not seek to muzzle the stakeholders or trample on their fundamental rights or infringe on the extant laws of the land.

Okei-Odumakin said: “I am against the development because it is anti-democratic and totalitarian. CAC is there to regulate NGOs. We reject it in its entirety. It is a dangerous trend to silence the NGOs, hence it should be thrashed.”

Also, a civil society group has said that the proposed NGOs bill is aimed at utilising the legislation to cage, stifle and obstruct the workings of civil society organisations in Nigeria.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, Director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, and Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, said the bill is based on lies that CSOs are afraid of being regulated.

However, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to “immediately drop the draft bill aiming at regulating and monitoring the activities of all civil society organisations and labour unions in the country.”

In a statement yesterday, Falana says the bill unequivocally threatens the very existence of a free and independent civil society in Nigeria.

He stressed that it falls significantly short of international human rights norms governing the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, in particular Section 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Articles 10 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

Meanwhile, a rights group, the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), has called on Nigerians to massively reject the bill.

It, however, vowed to mobilise Nigerians to resist the passing of the bill into law, saying it is anti-democratic and draconian.

In a statement by its Executive Director, Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the group said: “The insistence by the National Assembly to forcefully push through a legislation that has been massively rejected by citizens makes it abundantly clear that the bill is actually meant to muzzle active citizens and make them subservient to political and partisan interests.”

The group says it rejects the untrue impression being created to the effect that the activities of NGOs and civil society organisations are not regulated, saying: “It is a clear fact that the Corporate Affairs Commission under the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) expressly regulates the activities of NGOs and civil society organisations.

“For us therefore, it amounts to wasteful duplication, and an inefficient use of scarce national resources for the National Assembly to contemplate creating a parallel bureaucracy to regulate the activities of active citizens. If the current system of regulation has not been efficient enough, a better approach would have been to strengthen it, rather than create another expansive government structure.”

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Joe Okei-Odumakin
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