Rights groups sue National Assembly over NGO Regulation Bill

National assembly abuja building
National assembly

Some civic groups have sued the National Assembly to stop further deliberation on the bill that seeks to register and regulate Civil Society Organisations, CSOs.

The groups that filed the suit are members of the Human Rights Agenda Network, HRAN.

In a suit filed on November 3, 2017 at the Federal High Court Abuja, the plaintiffs comprising of 23 NGOs are seeking 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. If that is possible, they want 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, 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.

The groups therefore sought “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.

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