Amnesty International on Tuesday warned Nigerians that the proposed law to regulate the activities of civil society organisations will have devastating effects and take away their freedoms.
The NGO Regulatory Commission Bill, whose public hearing is slated for December 13 and 14, had generated controversies after some Nigerians, including a former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, opposed it on the grounds that its aim was to muzzle NGOs and CSOs.
Also, a professor of International Law and Jurisprudence at the University of Lagos, Akin Oyebode rejected the argument that the NGO bill was meant to check corruption among NGOs.
On his own part, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), condemned the bill. He argued that there was no reason for such a bill because, according to him, “there is a plethora of laws in our statute books regulating activities of NGOs in Nigeria.”
However, the House of Representatives announced on Monday that it would push through with a public hearing, the bill having passed the second reading.
Amnesty International, in its reaction, warned that” lawmakers are trying to pass the bill as quickly as possible before too many people take action to stop it.”
The organisation, on its website, said the bill will not only affect the NGOs, but will also shrink the freedoms of Nigerians.
Amnesty wrote, “Stop the government bill that threatens people’s freedom in Nigeria
“The Nigerian government has just announced a public vote on a bill designed to take away the freedoms of Nigerian people. And if we don’t act now and vote against it before the 14th December, when the public hearing finishes, it could be too late.
“The government has tried to make it sound like this ‘NGO bill’ is just about restricting the freedom of NGOs. But a quick Google search shows the public outrage this bill has already caused. It will have devastating effects on Nigerians – which is why they’re trying to pass it as quickly as possible, before too many people take action to stop it.
“This so-called ‘NGO’ bill will keep Nigerians from freely sharing their opinions, holding open discussion forums or organising people to protest. The effects of this bill will be far wider than just on NGOs: this bill will shrink the freedoms of Nigerians and allow the government to control them.
“The people in power are trying to rush this bill through, in order to quickly silence us.”