Lawyer and human rights activist, Ayo Obe has slammed the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) regulation bill as being absolutely ridiculous. Ms. Obe in condemning the bill, which was sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Umar Jibril, said there is no need for the bill as the Nigerian government through a variety of governmental regulatory bodies heavily regulates NGOs.
Speaking with SaharaReporters, Ms. Obe maintained that most NGOs are transparent as they are accountable to their funders and the people they work for. The legal practitioner further commenting on the NGO regulation bill added that supporters of the bill are merely seeking a way of silencing individuals and organizations that are constantly questioning actions of the government especially those of legislators who haven’t been able to account for how they are using funds meant for their constituents.
“There are so many regulations in place as a regimen that registered NGO has to conform with and that in itself is enough requirement. Within the existing system, we have various rules and we abide by the civil law that says you must pay your staff and you can’t imprison them. We are also bound by the criminal law.” Obe said
Condemning the bill, Obe further revealed that the proposed legislation is making it seem as if NGOs have to do what government wants and any NGO who is opposing the government will face a huge task in getting its registration renewed every two years.
Countering the claim that NGOs are being used to fund terrorism in the country, the legal practitioner said any NGO that funds terrorism will not likely register for them not to be traced. She however challenged Nigeria lawmakers to do something about funding of terrorism if truly they know how terrorism is being funded in the country instead of making laws to curb actions of NGOs.
“I find the bill so absolutely ridiculous and a complete dereliction of duty. If an organization is set up to fund terrorism, it’s not going to register and won’t pass its funds through a registration process so this is already a problem for the bill. If the government knows how terrorism is being funded, they ought to do something about it instead of setting up a bureaucracy that Nigeria cannot afford to oppress people who want to improve lives of Nigeria people.
“What has the House of Representatives done to find out from the Nigeria Police or the intelligence agencies what they have done to prevent this kind of use by NGOs if they are being used to fund terrorism?” She asked.
Dr. Ayo accused legislators of planning to use the bill, if approved, to silence critics who question their activities mostly about how they spend funds.
She said that elected representatives have noticed that Nigerians are asking more questions about huge amount of money the government is getting, how it is being spent and if it can trace what the legislators claim it is being spent on.
“The background of the bill is the increasing discomfort our elected representatives are facing as they don’t want to tell the Nigerian people how much they are earning and collecting for projects. It happened under military dictatorship and I dare say what we are seeing now is an uncomfortable awareness that it might be happening under civilian government that when people start asking for accountability about their money, the government starts attacking the singer instead of the songs.” Obe claimed.
Obe revealed that the bill will not stand in the way of Nigerians whenever they need to hold the government accountable on how they expend funds and policies that are made. She further upheld that the NGO bill couldn’t stop Nigerians from forming organization because the provision has been made available in the country’s constitution.
“The constitution protects people’s right to come together as they like, freedom of association under the constitution and there is nothing this bill can do to protect that. There are people who want to ask questions, these questions are going to be asked and this legislation is not going to make a difference to that.” She said.
Asked if she thinks some NGOs are shady and need to be looked, Obe stated that the most murky NGOS are the one owned by governments (GONGOs), politicians (PONGOs) and my wife NGOs (WiNGOs) which receives unregulated cash from those seeking favors and access from those in power and government.
Deputy Majority Leader proposed the NGOs regulatory bill, Buba Jibril of the House of Representatives and it has passed the first and second reading of the house. The bill has faced criticism from every angle with the claim that it is a way of repressing the people from speaking against the government.