When it becomes law, the controversial NGO regulations bill will have a legislative framework and regulate the activities of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria
The controversial Bill seeking to regulate Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) was stepped down on Thursday after a much-heated debate amongst members of the green chamber.
The Bill, sponsored by Rep. Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) is titled, “A Bill for an Act to Establish Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organizations Agency for the Promotion of Social Development Activities in Nigeria and for Related Matters (HB. 941)” aimed at providing a legislative framework for the regulation of the activities of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country.
OrderPaper recalls that in July 2022 the same bill was sponsored by Rep. Soli in the 9th House of Representatives. In 2017, Buba Jubrin similarly sponsored a bill that sought to regulate NGOs and CSOs. The bill passed a second reading at the House and was subsequently referred to the Committee on Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners which was chaired by Rep. Peter Akpatason (APC, Edo).
However, on the day of the public hearing of the bill, scores of protesters marched to the National Assembly asking that the bill be dropped. Members of the CSOs interpreted the bill as an attempt by the government to muzzle civil societies. Frontline civil society leader and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, had spearheaded the advocacy against the bill and was countered vigoroulsy by Akpatason in an exclusive interview with OrderPaper.
Stepped Down at Debate
The reason for stepping down the bill on Thursday was because the Minority Leader, Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), speaking against the Bill, opined that religious bodies should not be regulated and raised an observation that he did not have a copy of the bill so discussed.
“It is a very sensitive bill, do churches and mosques fall under NGO that they should be regulated, the House should tread with care and I think it should be stepped down,” he stated.
On his part, Rep. Bello Kumo (APC, Gombe) who spoke in favour of the Bill said religious bodies needed to be regulated.
“The bill should guide the activities of the NGOs including our religious bodies, and there should be small adjustments so that the religious bodies can be protected. NGOs should be able to carry out their activities within the guidance of the law”.
The presiding officer, Speaker Tajudeen Abbas (APC, Kaduna) called for the debate to be halted and the bill to be stepped down so that it can be considered next week pending the availability of copies for all lawmakers.
According to the Speaker: “The Bill so discussed is a very sensitive matter and the bill should be circulated to all members to study it thoroughly. We seek your indulgence to continue the debate next week Thursday.”