HB 585, widely referred to as the ‘NGO Bill,’ recently passed its second reading at the House of Representatives and was referred to the Committee on Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners, which held its public hearings this week in Abuja.
The NGO Bill was widely criticised at the public hearings, as fears were aired that it could prevent NGOs from carrying out life-saving work. The WBFA shares those concerns and cannot support the crippling effect that a Regulatory Commission would have on NGOs working in Nigeria.
Dr Luther-King Fasehun, Country Director of the WBFA, submitted a memorandum in advance of the hearings, detailing the serious failings of the Bill – including the inadequate definitions of NGOs and CSOs, operational risks to multi-year projects and programs, and the omission of provision for a direct appeal.
The proposed compulsory approval of projects by a relevant Government Ministry creates the potential of deadly bureaucratic delays – which are entirely unnecessary given the existing regulatory mechanism within the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the wellregarded collaborations between Ministries and NGOs, which have worked for decades. The additional introduction of powers to group NGOs, CSOs and other development partners in collectives would radically reduce the effectiveness of their programs.
There are ways for NGOs to work more effectively and the WBFA does not stand against productive regulation. In principle, the WBFA does not oppose legislative steps to improve clarity in the interpretations, definitions and accountability in the civil society sector, having contributed to the content of Nigeria’s Draft Charities Bill. The WBFA would for instance support Nigeria’s recognition and provision of formal registration of social impact enterprises as a charitable category. However, whilst modernisation and transparency are important, this Bill would provide neither. Instead, it would stifle life-saving work across Nigeria and should be resoundingly rejected.
Download below and read the Memorandum Submission to the Committee on Civil Society Organizations and Development Partners of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in line with the Scheduled Public Hearing on A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of the Non-Governmental Organizations Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, etc, in Nigeria and for Related Matters (HB 585):
Credit: Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) – 16th December 2017