Nigerian human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under the umbrella of the Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN) have sued the National Assembly to stop further deliberation on the NGO Regulation Bill that seeks to register and regulate Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
In a suit filed on November 3, 2017 at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the plaintiffs, comprising of 23 NGOs, are seeking an order of court to declare unconstitutional and unlawful the NGO Regulation Bill which has currently passed second reading at the House of Representatives. The groups asked the court to determine whether a judicial order can be made to stop the legislature from deliberating on a bill pending before it and if that is possible, an order stopping further deliberations on the NGO Regulation Bill, which the groups claim will violate their right to; freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and non-discrimination, as enshrined under sections 39, 40 and 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
The groups also asked the court to declare that the provisions of the NGO Regulation Bill is contrary to section 40 of the Constitution by seeking to register and regulate NGOs working on human rights as if they are political parties and to that extent, the Bill is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs, through their counsel, Mr. Chino Obiagwu, also asked the court to declare that the provisions of the NGO Regulation Bill is contrary to the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), under which NGOs are registered, because it creates extra burden on the registered NGOs than the law has placed on other registered companies.
In a 19-paragraph affidavit in support of the summons, the groups headed by HRAN, claim that they do not need to wait for the Bill to be passed into law before challenging it and that once it can be shown that the Bill is likely to infringe on their rights if passed into law, the court can stop the National Assembly from deliberating on such Bill by virtue of section 46 (1) of the Constitution.
Specifically, the reliefs being sought by them are as follows:
1. A DECLARATION that it is unconstitutional and unlawful for the defendants to consider, for the purpose of passing into law, a bill containing provisions that infringe on the Constitution, including the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs and their members.
2. A DECLARATION that HB111: NGO Regulatory Bill sponsored by Hon. Duro Faseyi on 20/10/2015; HB585: NGO Regulatory Bill sponsored by Hon Umar Buba Jubril on 2/6/2016, and HB705: Civil Society Committee of Nigeria Bill sponsored by Hon. Douye Diri on 15/06/2016, constitute, in their provisions and intendments, gross infringement or threat of infringement on the fundamental rights of the plaintiffs and of their members to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and non-discrimination enshrined in sections 39, 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore, to the extent of such inconsistency, are unconstitutional, null and void.
3. A DECLARATION that HB111: NGO Regulatory Bill sponsored by Duro Faseyi on 20/10/2015; HB585: NGO Regulatory Bill sponsored by Hon Umar Buba Jubril on 2/6/2016, and HB705: Civil Society Committee of Nigeria Bill sponsored by Douye Diri on 15/06/2016, contravene the provisions of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), as their provisions place discriminatory burden on the plaintiffs and their cooperate members more than placed on other corporate entities, and therefore are unlawful.
4. AN ORDER of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from continuing with any or further deliberation, consideration and/or passing into law of HB111: NGO Regulatory Bill; HB585: NGO Regulatory Bill, and HB705: Civil Society Committee of Nigeria Bill.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing.
Olanrewaju Suraju (Member, Steering Committee)
Anyakwee Nsirimovu (Member, Steering Committee)