AudioAge – Lagos, Nigeria – 20 December 2017 – The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry [LCCI] is worried over the draft NGO Bill presently under consideration in the National Assembly. It a bill for an act to provide for the establishment of a Non-Governmental Organizations Regulatory Commission for the supervision, coordination, and monitoring of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and for related matters in Nigeria. This proposition has far-reaching implications for the advocacy roles and responsibilities of private sector bodies in the country.
Some of the ominous provisions of the draft bill are that:
- All non-governmental organisations, national, local international, town unions, associations (etc) in Nigeria must register with the Commission and be licensed for a renewable period of two years.
- All NGOs annual workplan and budgets must be approved by the Commission before implementation.
- Assets including motor vehicles used to build the capacity of an NGO must be done through the Commission. All organizational vehicles must be branded even in crises prone areas.
- The Minister can direct the Commission to sanction, punish or withdraw the license of any of the NGO.
- Once any organization does anything against government interest or position, such organisations’ license will be withdrawn.
The LCCI, which was founded in 1888 [some 129 years ago] has been a leading player in the economic and business policy advocacy space. The Chamber had made valuable inputs into policy conception and formulation processes since the colonial times.
Advocacy is a critical component of a virile democracy. The NGOs and civil society organizations are a stabilizing force in the Nigerian polity. They are platforms through which the citizens freely express themselves to promote the cause of inclusion and participation in the democratic process. Many economic, social and political policies have been shaped inputs from NGOs and civil society organizations. The NGO Regulatory Bill is clearly not consistent with democratic ideals and values.
Many important and critical policy reforms were the result of very active advocacy by the private sector bodies. We have seen reforms at sectoral and macroeconomic levels which were outcomes of the unrelenting voice of the Nigerian private sector organizations. Such reforms have not only benefited the economy but have impacted the citizens positively. Some of these reforms initiatives are evident in the Telecommunications sector, infrastructure development, interest rate policy and incentives for critical sectors of the economy; the foreign exchange policy; trade policy to advance the interests of domestic investors and many more. The NGO bill [in its present form] will, without doubt, stifle and repress advocacy initiatives of the private sector organizations.
Besides, the Nigerian Civil Society organizations and NGOs have made incredible sacrifices through rigorous advocacy to promote the ideals of transparency, democratic governance, social and political reforms. The outcomes of these advocacy activities have been largely beneficial to the Nigerian state, and even the political class. They led the way to keep the military at bay in political governance and enthroned democracy. They were a critical part of the struggle that put an end to military incursion into political governance.
We, therefore, request the National Assembly to discontinue the consideration of the bill in the interest of Nigerian democracy, transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, and equity in governance. Already there are adequate regulatory and institutional frameworks to make the NGOs and civil Society Organizations accountable and operate within the limits of the law. There is the Companies and Allied Matters Act as well as the Money Laundering Act, which have robust provisions to ensure that the NGOs conduct their affairs in a manner consistent with the Nigerian laws. Besides, donor agencies have strict accountability and transparency systems and processes that guide the utilization of donor funds by beneficiaries. What needs to be done is to strengthen existing regulatory and institutional frameworks for the oversight of the NGOs and Civil society organizations if there are genuine worries over the activities of some of them.
Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry