The House of Representatives move to streamline collection and utilization of grants and donations from foreign donors was roundly rejected by stakeholders yesterday.
The Stakeholders including the National Planning Commission and Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of about a 100 CiVil Society and Non- Governmental Organizations rejected the bill.
Their position was on the piece of legislation was made in a One- Day Public Hearing on: a bill for an act to regulate the acceptance and utilization of financial / material contribution of do or agencies to Voluntary Organization and for matters connected therewith.”
The public hearing was organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Civil Society and Donor Agencies headed by Hon. Ini Udoka ( PDP Akwa-Ibom.)
The bill states amongst other requirements that: “No voluntary organisation shall accept any foreign Financial/ Material contribution except with the permission of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, ICPC.”
Clem Nwankwo, Executive Director, PLAC while speaking on behalf of the over 100 members of CSO and pro- democracy organizations under the group, said they were rejecting the bill because it ” proceeds from an exceedingly faulty basis and should actually have been titled: Foreign Contributions ( Prohibition) Bill.”
He further stated: ” The Bill is in violation of the Constitutionally up guaranteed rights to freedom of association as guaranteed undertaken Ryan Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, and the provision of articles 10(1) and 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and additionally contradicts Nigeria’s several international treaty and protocol obligations.”
The Executive Secretary of the National Planning Commission Dr. Fidelis Ugbo, who represented the Minister of National Planning, Bashir Yuguda said the bill would be giving the ICPC too much powers as regulator, investigator and prosecutor.
Another group, Centre for Civic Education (a.k.a Transition Monitoring Group) rejected the bill saying it aims to stifle Civil Society Organisations, as well as serve as a stumbling block to the achievement if CSOs mandate of deepening democracy and crusading for good governance in the country.
According to TMG, there are regulations already in place for what the bill seeks to do. “Such existing regulations include the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and several other extant Acts, practices and procedures. We therefore join other well- meaning CSOs in calling for the legislation to be given a death sentence.”
However, the sponsor of the bill, Hon. Eddie Mbadiwe in a chat with The Nation, said the bill was being misconstrued by the CSOs/ NGOs.
According to him, with the current security situation in the country, there is a need to put a tab on the huge funds flooding the country under the guise of interventions lest they be used to fund terrorism.
Earlier, the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal in his speech has said that the overall viewed stakeholders will be given prominence in the passing of the bill. He was represented by the Deputy Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor.
Chairman of the Committee, Ini Udoka in his opening address said the bill if passed into law will ensure effective utilization of resources provide by Donors and also ensure there is no duplication of programmes for which appropriation has been made by government.