CSOs Appeal For Protection Against Repressive Laws
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have called for protection from what they described as repressive laws in the country.
The appeal was made at the first national conference on Civil Society Operational Environment to generate shared understanding and collective perspectives by stakeholders on appropriate instruments of regulation and effective processes to regulate CSOs operation in Nigeria as well as increase broad public awareness about the roles of CSOs and the need for an enabling regulatory environment that protects the sector from repressive legislation.
The programme is 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, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and USAID-Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) aimed at improving the civil society regulatory environment in Nigeria.
At a press conference on the ongoing three-day event, the programmes manager, Global Rights, Edosa Oviawe, said despite 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, have been made within the past decade by different regulatory agencies including the National Assembly (NASS) to introduce new legislations and policies to further regulate CSOs’ operations without recourse to extant legal provisions.
“Instead, a misguided perception continues to expand the narrative among these regulatory agencies that CSOs are not adequately regulated.
“Although the need for capacity improvement and enabling regulatory environment require attention to strengthen CSOs 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 all concerned stakeholders.
“It is on this premise that the EU-ACT has collaborated with the National Steering Committee on Civil Society Regulatory Environment to host this three-day national conference which is designed as a response 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 to the boxing of CSO regulations within the broad civic space narrative, where all forms of government repressive actions to the generality of her citizens are interpreted as clamping down on civil society, “ the group said.
The CSOs said there is a concern about the low level of awareness of existing regulations among relevant stakeholders, including CSOs/NGOs and regulators despite the existence of over a dozen legislations.
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.