…As CSOs appeal for protection against repressive laws
By Nasiru Yusuf Tsakuwa
The Federal Government has said that it will loosen the environment in order to make it more effective and attractive for the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to operate.
Alhaji Garba Abubakar, Registrar-General, Corporate Affairs Commission said this on Tuesday in Abuja during the national conference on CSOs operational environment.
“COSs are increasingly becoming more important because of the role they play at global level on issues of environment sustainability and human rights which are currently in the front banner of global dialogue,” Abubakar said.
According to him, a recent study commissioned by Globescan poll of experts indicated that the percentage role expected to be played by Government, Business and NGOs in achieving sustainability is 24, 35 and 30 per cent, respectively.
He said that the study clearly indicated that CSOs were expected to play more active role in achieving environmental sustainability than government.
Abubakar said that in modern times, CSOs were widely understood to be the ‘third sector’ of the economy distinct from government and business. “The topic ‘Unpacking the Regulatory Framework for CSOs in Nigeria’ presupposes that the environment is currently tightly packed or conscripted and required loosening in order to make it more effective.
“This assumption appears to be an exaggeration or untenable because S 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended provides that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular.
“The person may form or belong to a political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests,” he said. Abubakar said that the constitution had already unpacked operational environment for CSOs. He said that the country also has a very robust CSOs sub sector.
According to him, this is just a biased sample and excludes other interests such as health, human rights, and environmental, charitable and humanitarian groups.
He said an attempt to improve the corporate governance framework in CAMA 2020 has been misconceived as attempts to micromanage civil society organizations. Abubakar said: “Experience has shown that corporate governance was very minimal or sometimes totally lacking in most of the CSOs.
“This is not in the overall interest of the country. “Globally, CSOs (NPOS) are expected to be in the forefront in the fight against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism. “They are accordingly required to implement Regulations of 8 and 25 of the Financial Taskforce (FATF) on nonprofit organizations and legal arrangements.”
According to him, there was usually a distinction between freedom of association and perceived rights to association under a particular name.
“It is recognized that there is fundamental right to association, there is no right to association under particular name. “The use of a particular name requires licensing or registration and can be denied by a sovereign state or its agency,” he said.
He assured the CSO sector that the commission was willing to partner with all CSOs, to enable them achieve their objectives. The deputy ambassador and head, Politics, Press and Information section of the EU, Elexandre Borges Gomes, said they are great fans of the CSOs in Nigeria and will support them to promote good governance and democracy.
Edosa Oviawe, Programmes Manager, …As CSOs appeal for protection against repressive laws Global Rights said that CSOs have gathered to brainstorm on the appropriate instruments to regulate their operations in Nigeria. Oviawe said this on Tuesday in Abuja during a three-day national conference on CSOs operational environment.
He said that the conference was aimed at generating shared understanding and collective perspectives by stakeholders in this direction. Oviawe said the conference would also discuss increasing public awareness about the roles of CSOs and the need for an enabling regulatory environment that protects the sector from repressive legislations.
According to him, there is a concern about the low level of awareness of existing regulations among relevant stakeholders, including CSOs, NGOs and regulators.
He said that in spite of the existence of over a dozen legislations, Nigerian lawmakers for example, still claim, “there is no law that regulates the activities of NGOs.” Oviawe said that instead of interrogating the effectiveness and relevance of extant regulations, each administration since 2007, was swift to introduce another legislation to regulate.
“The recent was the re-introduction of the NGO bill on the floor of the House of Representatives in July,” he said. “This event was the first of its kind in Nigeria as there has not been any previous attempt to bring various stakeholders to discuss pertinent issues that affect the effectiveness and impact of the civil society sector.
“The conference will also address the enabling conducive regulatory environment for CSO operations in the country,” Oviawe said. He said the conference was supported by the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and West Africa and EU-Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) Programme through a collaboration of EU-ACT Programme.
Others, he said, are Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and USAIDStrengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE), aimed at improving the civil society regulatory environment in Nigeria.
Oviawe said that in spite of the availability of over a dozen legislations and policies that currently guide the activities of the not for-profit sector, at least five unsuccessful attempts had been made within the past decade by different regulatory agencies.
According to him, every National Assembly introduces new legislations and policies to further regulate CSO operations without recourse to extant legal provisions. He said that instead, “a misguided perception continued to expand the narrative among these regulatory agencies that CSOs were not adequately regulated.
“There is the need for capacity improvement and enabling regulatory environment requires attention to strengthen CSO operations in Nigeria. “It is, however, expedient to address the concerns around the regulatory framework as several issues embedded therein need to be clarified in order to clear the air of the current state of confusion among stakeholders,” Oviawe said.
He said that EU-ACT collaborated with the National Steering Committee on Civil Society Regulatory Environment to host the conference which is designed as a response to address some of these concerns. Oviawe said: “It was necessary to address the concerns around the regulatory framework as several issues embedded therein need to be clarified in order to clear the air on issues.
“It is on this premise that the EU-ACT has collaborated with the National Steering Committee on Civil Society Regulatory Environment to orgainse the conference to address some of these concerns.
“Currently, there is no unified perspective about what should constitute a body of regulations for CSOs and this has resulted in various interpretations by different actors on how the sector should be regulated.
“Unless resolved and properly clarified, this issue of multiple definitions will continue to put both regulatory agencies and civil society actors at loggerheads,” he said.
The three-day National Conference on Civil Society Regulatory Environment in Nigeria brings together various actors from the civil society sector, and government including regulatory agencies and legislators, as well as donors and other stakeholders, to discuss pertinent issues that affect the effectiveness and impact of the civil society sector from the point of view of enabling a conducive regulatory environment for CSO operations in the country.
The broad objective of the conference is to create an opportunity for stakeholders to synergize efforts at improving the CSO regulatory environment. The conference is aimed at generating shared understanding and collective perspectives by stakeholders on appropriate instruments of regulation and effective processes to regulate CSOs operation in Nigeria as well as increasing broad public awareness about the roles of CSOs and the need for an enabling regulatory environment to protect the sector from repressive legislation.
This convergence is the first of its kind to provide a neutral platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue and ensure that all relevant opinions from all concerned groups are holistically collected.
It is therefore hoped that this conference will result in the development of comprehensive recommendations arising from the resolutions reached and agree on modalities for implementing the recommendations. The National Conference on Civil Society Operational Environment is supported with funding from the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS and the Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation (ACT) Programme which is implemented by the British Council.