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The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has maintained that the Bill for an Act for the Establishment of the Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission, proposed by the House of Representatives, to regulate non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is apparently orchestrated to repress the voice of the people and subjugate civil society groups in Nigeria.

Yakubu Dogara
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara

According to the CDHR, the bill is unnecessary, serves no public interest and so must not be passed. The organisation adds that the right of Nigerians to a democratic society with fundamental freedoms remains inalienable, and that any attempt to subjugate that right must be resisted.

“CDHR rejects the bill,” the body declared, adding: “Contributions by civil society organisations (CSOs) have always positively impacted on our democracy and development for several decades; CSOs have remained the beacon of peace, development, security, humanitarian services and Human Rights assessment in Nigeria; NGOs/CSOs form a critical platform that guarantees freedom, equality and Rights of all persons. Unnecessary Government interference is utterly inconceivable.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 and endorsed by its National Publicity Secretary, Henry Peter Ekine, and made available to the media, CDHR warned that the said bill, if allowed to become law, has the potential to threaten democratic ideals. Ekine emphasised that democracy succeeds on the principles of fundamental freedoms and citizens’ participation, adding that there are already sufficient provisions and legal frameworks in the nation’s body of laws that regulate the formation, registration, operations and finances of NGOs/CSOs.

CDHR charged Nigerians to compel the National Assembly to rather focus on making laws that will improve the welfare of citizens as ultimate priority; promote good-governance, eradicate all forms of servitude, stop the violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, especially economic and social rights, not undermining civil, political, as well as cultural rights.

“The National Assembly must make laws that demonstrate real commitment, concern and value for the lives of Nigerians anywhere and at all times, failure of which the collective capacity of citizens to enforce their inalienable rights will be activated.”

According to the CDHR, the civil and political rights of citizens (the first generation rights) as well as the social, economic and cultural rights (the second generation rights) must be seen to be protected. It noted that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, provides for the civil and political rights under Chapter IV as the Fundamental Human Rights.

“These rights are connected to the social, economic and cultural rights provided in the Constitution under Chapter II as the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. The National Assembly must make only laws that improve security, safety and welfare as well as protect the rights of citizens.”

The human rights group, under the leadership of its President, Malachy Ugwummadu, therefore called on the National Assembly to immediately heed the views of Nigerians as represented at the public hearing on the bill. In line with the theme for the International Human Rights Day, 2017, CDHR also enjoined Nigerians and all persons of conscience to #StandUp4HumanRights and speak out in condemnation of the bill; remain firm and demand an immediate end to this Bill; and ensure that it is never passed to law.

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