The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other civil society organisations in Nigeria have criticized moves by the House of Representatives to regulate their activities.
Other groups condemning the bill are Women Advocates and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative (WELA), Partnership for Justice and Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).
The Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said in a statement on Thursday in Lagos that the lawmakers were pursuing anti-people and anti-civil society agenda.
They accused the lawmakers of using their law-making powers to launch a “deliberate campaign to shield members from accountability.”
Sources report that the bill seeking to establish a regulatory commission to monitor the work of civil society organizations in the country had on July 14 scaled second reading in the House of Representatives..
The statement said: “Under the bill, civil society and community groups including the labour unions, associations of journalists, associations of teachers, association of market women, human rights NGOs and other civil society bodies will face intrusive and unwarranted surveillance of their operations.
“The bill clearly aims not only to undermine and frustrate the work of independent civil society and community organizations in the country, but also to intimidate human rights and anti-corruption activists.”
It described the bill as unnecessary, pointing out that there are extant laws regulating the operations of civil society organisations.
“As well as other common law provisions to address any purported issues of defective operational values of such organizations that are left to operate within its own Constitution and sometimes within the whims and caprices of their donors,” the statement noted.
The statement noted that the anti-civil society bill marked “a new and disturbing pattern of repressive and anti-people bills” being championed by the National Assembly that sought to regulate the freedom of expression of Nigerians.
“The anti-civil society bill amounts to regulation of the constitutional and internationally recognized human rights of Nigerians to freedom of expression and association and therefore constitutes a blatant affront on constitutional authority and legitimacy.
“The United Nations, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have repeatedly affirmed the importance of civil society and human rights defenders.”
Mr. Mumuni called on Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, to use his position to ensure the withdrawal of the anti-civil society bill or face legal action.
“We will take all appropriate legal actions nationally and internationally to ensure that the bill is dropped and promote the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in Nigeria,” the statement added.