Follow-up: Issues as Reps Clears air on NGO Bill, says religious bodies, thrift orgs, school associations not affected

By BnF News Online 

The federal house of representatives of  Nigeria has recently, in a statement, said the controversial NGO bill that is currently before its committee was not crafted to stifle operations of religious bodies or local thrift organisations, as rumored. 

The NGO Bill which many Nigerians, especially the civil society organisations, described it as potentially noxious to the development of the country, is currently at its public hearing state after it passed the first and second reading. 

Many active voices in the civil society had continued to haul wedges on its wheel with an attempt to abort it, but the lawmakers paid deaf ears. 

The lawmakers said the bill stands to benefit the country. 

"The NGO bill, is primarily to set up a commission to regulate their activities and provide a platform for robust relationships between them and the government for the interests of Nigerians", Hon. Baba Jubril.

"In addition, it is to ensure transparency and accountability in the ways and manners the NGOs collect monies and use them for Nigerians". 

Former head of Nigeria's Human Right Commission, and active voice in the civil society network, Dr Chidi Odinkalu was loud in his critiism of the NGO bill. 

In a recent advocacy video message that went viral on social media, Odinkalu, called on Nigerians to stand against the possible passage of the NGO bill by the Reps. 

He said the proposed law was the most dangerous piece of legislation ever considered by Nigeria National Assembly since the country's return to democratic rule. 

That message didn't go down well with the lawmakers who picked quarrel with the manner the key actors at the CSO and NGOs were reacting to the proposed piece of legislation.

"The way the NGOs are reacting to this wonderful and well-packaged bill, particularly SERAP is not only shameful but condemnable", said Hon Jubril.

"Hon. Jubril's disruptive effort is highly suspicious, especially against the backdrop of such security threats as the herdsmen attacks which are being seen as part of a sinister agenda of domination.

But the arguments of the Reps has so far failes to quell the criticisms and mixed reactions that has largely dominated the discuss on NGO Bill. 
As very much characteristic of the Nigeria sociopolitical clime where every policy being pursued by individual(s) from an opposite region is being labelled as either a conspiracy theory for propagation of religion and or cultural domination, the issue of NGO bill had slipped to the abyss of religious conotation. 

A catholic body said the proponent of the bill, a Muslim from central Nigeria state of Kogi, was merely pursuing an agenda to stifle christianity.
"Knowing full well that his religion demands him to use his position to promote and protect religion, is this Hon. Umar's subtle way of promoting and protecting his religion by setting up a framework in which others might be persecuted", said Evaristus Bassey, the national director, Caritas Nigeria. 

A senator from the Muslim dominated northern Nigeria, Shehu Sani, didnt see the Bill as a subterfuge for the promotion of any premordial agenda as alleged. He stands against it. 

"The increasing cases of human rights abuses and intolerance to divergent views across the country makes it dangerous to endorse or support any bill aimed at regulating the activities of the NGOs", said Sani on his Facebook page. 

"I will stand against this bill to protect and preserve our fundamental rights to freedom of expression and of assembly.

"The tendency of the bill when it becomes law [to] be abused by people in the position of power is clear", Senator Sani said. 

A recent clarification statement from the House of Reps on the NGO Bill said:- 
1. That Religious bodies and organizations are NOT NGOs

2. That Our quasi financial institutions at local levels are NOT NGOs! These organizations have existed for centuries to serve businesses and commerce of our market women and traders.

3 That now NGOs(Non-Governmental Organizations) and CSOs(Civil Society Organizations) are voluntary organizations that are registered to partner Government at all levels to fill gaps wherever they exist. They are supposed to be partners in progress with the Government; therefore the need for a commission to serve this purpose arises 

4. That Secondly and naturally for them to carry out their activities, the NGOs and CSOs solicit for funds from all over the World and collect billions of naira on behalf of Nigerians! 
That NGOs recruit expatriates to help them run their activities in the country with lots of abuses .

That recent developments have shown that Some people registered NGOs,solicited for funds and disappeared. That happened recently in the North East.

That Some NGOs are used to fund the activities of terrorist and insurgents!

Nigeria's forrmost online investigative newspaper, PREMIUM TIMES, which has been reporting the controversy surrounding the NGO bill reported thay "...the NGO regulatory agency, if established, 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.

"Its functions would, amongst others, be to issue licences to all NGOs, which would equire renewing such licences every two years. And if the agency's board doesn't renew an organisation's license after the two years, such organisation will seize to exist; a clause many say would make NGOs function at the will of government.

A"n NGO would also have to receive permission from the regulator before it executes any project and the agency would also regulate how funds received from donors are spent."

The Public Hearing woould soon commence and given the avalanche of criticisms trailing its gestation, it is clear seen if it would ever be birthed.  For now it seems the pro-NGO Bill voice is coming only from one segment of Nigeria - the House of Reps. 

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