The bill to regulate non-governmental organisations (NGOs) hit a brick wall on Wednesday as none of the persons who appeared before Nigerian lawmakers expressed their support for the bill.
During a public hearing on the bill, which was held at by the House of Representatives at the National Assembly complex in Abuja, 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, Premium Times reports.
“I stand with civil societies very firmly,” he said, adding that “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”
Also speaking at the public hearing but in the same vein, 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.
According to the representative of the health reform sector coalition, Mike Egboh, 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.
The NGO bill seeks to, among others, create an NGO Regulatory Commission to regulate NGO’S and civil society organizations, CSOs.
The bill, sponsored by a lawmaker, 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 is scrapped.