UPDATED: NGO bill suffers setback, gets zero support at public hearing

Public hearing on the controversial NGO bill.

None of the persons who appeared before Nigerian lawmakers on Wednesday expressed support for the bill to regulate non-governmental organisations, NGOS.

A public hearing on the bill was held at by the House of Representatives at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.

At the hearing, all the attendees, including a Catholic cleric, Matthew Kukah, and a former lawmaker, Abdul Oroh, opposed the bill.

Speaking against the bill, Mr. Kukah stressed that without civil societies, democracy would be in danger.

“I stand with civil societies very firmly,” he said.

“The greatest benefit for us in a democracy is freedom.”

He said Nigeria already has enough laws to cover almost every dimension of its citizen’s life.

“We have other institutions that are literally malfunctioning and unable to deliver services”

He however hoped that the National Assembly would take seriously the arguments of various CSOs presented at the public hearing.

Also speaking at the public hearing, the executive director of policy and legal advocacy centre, Clement Nwankwo, said no single person supports the bill.

“A resounding NO to NGO regulation,” he said.

Mike Egboh who spoke on behalf of health reform sector coalition said passing the NGO bill would amount to sentencing the women and children of Nigeria to death.

“Creating the NGO Regulatory Commission means killing Nigerian women and children because when there was an outbreak of meningitis in Kano, the government was helpless; but my organisation flew in vaccines within 24 hours.

“If there was an NGO agency, we wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he added.

A former member of the House of Representatives, Abdul Oroh, who was deputy chairman of house committee on human rights, said civil society organisations are collectively a force for good.

He added that the House of Representatives should rather work to strengthen democracy.

“You cannot be accountable to government if you are not a government organisation,” he said.

When contacted to react on the total rejection of the bill, the sponsor, Umar Jibril, neither picked calls to his phone nor responded to text messages.

The NGO bill seeks to, among others, create an NGO Regulatory Commission to regulate NGO’S and civil society organisations, CSOs.

The bill has been criticised ‎by many activists and NGOs as government’s way of clamping down on civic groups.

While the hearing was going on, scores of protesters marched to the National Assembly asking that the bill be dropped.

The bill recently passed second reading at the House of Representatives and was subsequently referred to the Committee on Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners.

The committee will after the public hearing, present its report to the house for consideration clause by clause.

The rejection of the bill by CSOs, however, does not automatically translates to its death, as the house would decide its fate when the report is being laid.

In his submission after the public hearing, the chairman of the committee, Peter Akpatason, assured that he will present the recommendations of the committee to the House without bias.

He had earlier asked if there was anyone at the hearing ‎who was in support of the bill. There was none.

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