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CSOs Kick Against Rivers Govt’s Bill To Regulate Activities

Twenty-three civil society organisations(CSO’s) in Nigeria have kicked against a bill before the Rivers State House of Assembly, aimed at regulating their activities as well as sources of funding in Rivers State.

The Non-governmental organisations (NGO) Registration Bill titled: “A Bill To Harmonise Rivers State CSOs Registrations, In Relation To Modernising Such Laws To Align With Current Practices, Streamlining Procedures, And Eliminating Unnecessary Registration Burdens”, was sponsored by the member representing Asari-Toru Constituency 2 in the House of Assembly.

The CSOs, in a joint statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday after a roundtable on the proposed bill, accused the Rivers State government of attempting to stifle the civic space and restrict basic freedoms.

The joint statement, which was read before newsmen by the executive director of We The People, Ken Henshaw, said several aspects of the proposed law pose a serious threat to the existence and free operation of CSOs in Rivers State.

Henshaw said, “The Bill does not provide any process of engagement with the affected organizations before removal. It places sole and arbitrary powers on the Registry. Organisations who believe they have been wrongly treated are advised in Section 57 to seek redress in court. The CSO is first removed and then directed to the court to seek redress.

“The above and several other aspects of the proposed law pose a serious threat to the existence and free operation of CSOs in Rivers State. If passed into Law, the Bill will only serve the purpose of stifling dissent, intimidating civil society organisations and curtailing the civic space. We are equally concerned that if this Bill passes in Rivers State, it could become a new trend in other states.

“It is also important to note that the combined reading of Section 4(2) of the Constitution of Nigeria and ITEM 32 of the second schedule to the Constitution is to the effect that matters of incorporation, regulation, and winding up are in the Exclusive list which only the National House of Assembly can legislate on.

“For this reason, efforts by the State House of Assembly to pass a law that regulate civil society organisations in Rivers State is unconstitutional and ultra vires, and must be resisted.

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