The controversial bill seeking to regulate Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Nigeria suffered a setback Wednesday as it received no support from any of the stakeholders who appeared before lawmakers at the scheduled public hearing.
The public hearing on the bill was held at by the House of Representatives at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
At the hearing, attendees, including Catholic cleric, Matthew Kukah, and a former lawmaker, Abdul Oroh, passionately opposed the bill.
Speaking against the bill, Kukah stressed that without civil societies, democracy would be in danger.
“I stand with civil societies very firmly.
“The greatest benefit for us in a democracy is freedom”, he said.
He argued that Nigeria already had enough laws to cover almost every aspect of the lives of citizens.
“We have other institutions that are literally malfunctioning and unable to deliver services”, Kukah added.
He hoped that the National Assembly would take the arguments of the various CSOs presented at the public hearing into consideration in deciding how to proceed on the matter.
Also speaking at the public hearing, 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.
Mike Egboh, who spoke on behalf of health reform sector coalition, said 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 were collectively a force for good.
He added that the House of Representatives should rather work towards strengthening democracy.
“You cannot be accountable to government if you are not a government organisation,” he said.
While the hearing was going on, protesters marched to the National Assembly asking that the bill be thrown out.
The bill recently passed second reading at the House of Representatives and was subsequently referred to the Committee on Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners.
The committee is expected to present its report to the House for clause by clause consideration after the public hearing.
In his submission after the public hearing, the chairman of the committee, Peter Akpatason, assured that he will present the recommendations of the committee to the House without bias.
He had earlier asked if there was anyone at the hearing who was in support of the bill and got zero response in the affirmative.
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