Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna central in the National Assembly, has vowed to oppose the bill seeking to regulate non-governmental organisations (NGO).
Since the bill’s emergence in the House of Representatives, it has had its fair share of vocal proponents and opponents.
Critics of the bill say it is an instrument to stifle NGOs under the guise of regulation.
Former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu had made a video on why the bill must not be allowed to pass but Umar Jibril, deputy majority leader of the house of representatives, assuaged some of his concerns in a statement in defence of the proposed legislation.
Weighing in on the controversial bill in a Facebook post on Saturday, Sani said the increasing cases of human rights abuses and intolerance to divergent views makes it “dangerous” to support the bill.
The senator explained that he is opposing the bill to “protect and preserve our fundamental rights to freedom of expression and of assembly”.
He said it is very clear the law would be abused by people in power.
He wrote: “The increasing cases of human rights abuses and intolerance to divergent views across the country makes it dangerous to endorse or support any bill aimed at ‘regulating the activities of the NGOs’.I will stand against this bill to protect and preserve our fundamental rights to freedom of expression and of assembly.The tendency of the Bill when it becomes law be abused by people in the position of power is clear”.
The bill has seven chapters, 58 clauses and a schedule that will guide the commission when established. Here are highlights of the bill:
Clause 7 (1) (b) states that the commission seeks to ensure the transparency and accountability of the operations of NGOs.
Clause 24 (1) states that it shall be an offence for any person to operate an NGO in Nigeria for welfare, research, health relief, agriculture, education, industry, the supply of amenities or any other similar purposes without registration and certificate under the act.
Clause 24 (2) states that a person convicted of an offence under the act shall be liable to a fine not exceeding N500,000, or an imprisonment of 18 months or both.
Clause 25 (1) (c) states that funds pledged by donors (to NGOs) must be disclosed before implementation of project, including mode of disbursement and condition attached to the funding by donor. Funds from overseas must be channelled through normal banking system.
Clause 25 (2) states that NGOs should ensure that greater percentage of the financial requirement goes for direct support to target beneficiaries, in respect of which organisation shall limit administrative cost to bare essentials.
Clause 26 (1) states that a project formulated by an organisation for eventual implementation in the country shall be approved by the relevant ministry and registered with the commission before implementation.
Clause 26 (3) states that in an emergency, the registration of a project may be waived on request by the organisation to the commission.
Clause 26 (4) says that where the waiver is granted, the organisation shall, within 14 days of sourcing funds, advise the commission of the quantum of the funds and the planned project utilisation of the funds.
Clause 34 (4) states that where an emergency is declared by the president under the constitution, the ministry, on the advice of the relevant ministry, shall recommend the application for the recruitment of non-citizens by an organisation to the commission, personnel so employed shall be allowed temporary residents status in conformity with the relevant immigration laws.
Clause 35 provides for the establishment of a Nigeria National Council of Voluntary agencies which will be formed by the first 100 NGOs to be registered by the commission according to clause 38.