A coalition of civil society groups on Wednesday asked the Federal Government Government to create an environment that guarantees their protection from repressive laws in the country.
The coalition made the demand at the first national conference on Civil Society Operational Environment held in Abuja to generate shared understanding and collective perspectives by stakeholders on appropriate instruments of regulation and effective processes to regulate CSOs operation in Nigeria
The conference was held against the background of increased broad public awareness about the roles of CSOs in the society 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) was aimed at improving the civil society regulatory environment in Nigeria.
The programmes manager, Global Rights, Edosa Oviawe, said the ongoing three-day event proposed that 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,” the group said.
The group said the EU-ACT decided to collaborate with the National Steering Committee on Civil Society Regulatory Environment to host the national conference as a response to address some of these concerns.
Currently, it said, there was no unified perspective about what should constitute a body of regulations for CSOs, which 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 would 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 expressed 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, who described the delegation as “great fans of the CSOs in Nigeria” pledged to support them to promote good governance and democracy in the country.