Tony Akowe, Abuja
A bill seeking to regulate Civil Society Organisations in the country failed to scale second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday as lawmakers vehemently opposed bill.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Abbas Tajudeen seeks to establish a commission to regulate civil society groups in the country for the purpose of “strengthening their capacity to promote democracy and development in the country.
Even though Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila fought to allow the bill scale second reading, majority members who spoke on the bill kicked against its passage, insisting that there are laws existing in the country which already regulate the civil society groups.
Rep. Bamidele Salam who led the opposition to the bill said if enacted into law, the bill will infringe on the fundamental human right of Nigerians as contained in section 40 of the Constitution especially the right to assemble.
He also said that the bill was an attempt to muzzle free speech and impede criticism of government, adding that there was also no need to have multiple agencies carrying out the same functions as the Corporate Affairs Commission is already empowered by law to register and regulate civil society groups.
He said there is already a general feeling by Nigerians that the House is trying to muzzle opposition against government adding that the bill is not one that should be allowed to pass second reading.
Rep Julius Ihonbvere said the democracy being enjoyed in the country today was fought for by civil society groups and that efforts at introducing new bodies to regulate them at this point in time will amount to doing great disservice to the nation.
He said one of the major highlight of the legislative agenda of the 9th House of Representatives was to help strengthen the capacity of CSOs and not to kill them which he said the bill seeks to do.
Also speaking against the bill, Rep. Uzoma Abonta said the content of the bill seeks to limit the right of Nigerians, pointing out that there are laws already regulating CSOs in the country.
Following serious objection to the bill by members, its sponsor, Abbas Tajudeen withdrew it to the admiration of members.
Tajudeen explained that the intention of the bill was not to muzzle CSOs but intended to strengthen their operations, stressing that as a result of the misconception about the bill, he was stepping it down.