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, is apparently to repress the voice of the people.
Noting that it is also meant to subdue civil society groups in Nigeria, CDHR said the bill is utterly unnecessary, serves no public interest and so must not be passed.
“The right of Nigerians to a democratic society with fundamental freedoms remains inalienable and any attempt to subjugate that right must be resisted,” said the CDHR.
The group said contributions by civil society organisations have always positively impacted on the nation’s democracy and development for several decades.
According to CDHR, CSOs have remained the beacon of peace, development, security, humanitarian services and human rights assessment in Nigeria.
It maintained that NGOs/CSOs form a critical platform that guarantees freedom, equality and rights of all persons, adding that unnecessary government interference is utterly inconceivable.
National publicity secretary of CDHR, Henry Ekine, warned that the said bill, if allowed to become law, has the potential to threaten democratic ideals.
“Democracy succeeds on the principles of fundamental freedoms and citizens’ participation,” he said.
CDHR stated that there are already sufficient provisions and legal frameworks in the country’s body of laws that regulate the formation, registration, operations and finances of NGOs/CSOs.
He said, “CDHR has 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 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.
The group stated further, “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, provides for 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.”