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Survey Findings: Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory (NGO) Bill: A Threat to Civil Liberty?

Acknowledgement

We appreciate all those who gave of their precious time to participate in the survey that led to this report. 

 

Executive Summary

One of the major challenges that negates economic development in Nigeria is the lack of reliable data, and of more concern, the inability of our government to engage the people and get their buy-in in issues of national development. This was recently demonstrated by lawmakers when a controversial bill, ‘A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of a Non-Governmental Organisation Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), etc. in Nigeria and for Related Matters’, was put forward to the house. The bill is on its way to becoming an act of the National Assembly, having passed its first and second readings since July 14, 2016; all without participatory consultation of Nigerians considering the ramification and reach of its edicts. Our lawmakers and implementators are yet to understand the power of engagement for citizen concession and even promotion.

Information about the perceptions of people towards the NGO Regulation Bill is vital for a strong democratic institution and civil liberty in Nigeria, and will enable government to make an informed decision about what how best to handle this bill and any such sensitive matter.

In recognition of the contributions of civil liberty and strong democratic institutions needed to drive sustainable development in Nigeria, CSR-in-Action Advocacy – a sustainability and governance focused non-profit for collective social consciousness in Nigeria through our recent report  Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory (NGO) Bill: A Threat to Civil Liberty?” provided insightful information about the implications of the proposed NGO Regulatory Bill. Subsequently, a survey was conducted by CSR-in-Action Advocacy to gauge the perceptions of Nigerians towards the proposed bill.

  

Objectives

Our main objectives for conducting this survey were to:

  • provide honest feedback from the citizenry that would enable lawmakers to make informed decisions towards regulating the activities of NGOs or CSOs in Nigeria.
  • gauge the response of Nigerians towards “Establishment of the Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory (Establishment, ETC,) Commission” bill.

 

Background

Upon the recent publicity of the draft bill, many Nigerians have expressed strong reservations as the people feel that civil liberty and rapidly progressing institutionalisation of democracy that the nation has long enjoyed has been threatened by the proposed controversial NGO Regulatory Bill that seeks to establish a federal regulatory commission responsible for the supervision, co-ordination and monitoring of Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, and Community Based Organisations in Nigeria. They believe that the bill is reminiscent of authoritarianism, and anti-democratic tendencies.

Proponents of the bill state that the bill’s primary aim is making CSOs more transparent and accountable. And in all fairness to the lawmakers, there has been salacious activities carried out by charlatans within the non-profit and other civil society groups in the nation, causing concerns for transparency and accountability.

However, in a democratic dispensation, it is pertinent to seek the opinion of the general populace and report the findings.

 

 

Methodology

Data collection method: Primary data was collected exclusively for the purpose of this survey, to ensure a high degree of accuracy and objectivity in comparing perceptions of Nigerians towards 3 different questions.

Instrument for data collection: Online survey link was sent to about 17,000 people in our email newsletter database and through Twitter platform, and the poll lasted for one month period before the link was closed.

 

 

A Report of Survey Findings

This survey is a single question survey undertaken to determine citizenry opinion of the passage of the proposed NGO Regulatory Bill. Findings of this survey reflect different perceptions of the respondents towards the bill.

While 68% (130 persons) of the 193 respondents suggested that the NGO bill is not good to be passed, 23% (45 persons) agreed that it is good to be passed, and 9% (18 persons) suggested that some adjustment is needed on the bill.

The 68% ‘No’ response represents the opinions of the majority of the people, and implies that any attempt to pass the NGO Regulatory Bill by the National Assembly may not represent what the electorates want from their law makers who represented them.

However, if almost a fourth of respondents believe that the bill is a necessity and 9% think that if some adjustment is made, the bill would be adequate for passing, there is room for lawmakers to actualise the passage of the bill, if the approach to the passage is readdressed.

To maintain our strong democratic institutions in Nigeria, it is pertinent that legislators engage in participatory consultation of the people to make decisions that do not entirely jeopardise the interests of this significant percent of our people.

 

A Conclusion

As very important components of our democracy, civil society groups have played a vital role in deliberations and debates that have expanded our citizen rights, justice, liberty, and the abolition of certain harmful socio-cultural practices that hamper human rights and personal dignity in Nigeria. According to American civil rights activist and former presidential aspirant, Jesse Jackson, “Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy”. This means that without participatory consultation of the people, no government can make informed decisions that represent the wish of its populace.

In conclusion, a consideration of the opinion of the people, as represented in this survey, will be pivotal for building strong democratic institutions, and would determine the appropriate level of legislative guidance that is required for civil society in the nation.