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CSOs brainstorm on instruments of regulating activities 

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By Franka Ofili

Mr Edosa Oviawe, Programmes,  Manager, Global Rights said that Civil Society Organisation have gathered to brainstorm on the appropriate instruments to  regulate their operations in Nigeria.

Oviawe  said this on Tuesday in Abuja during a 3-day national conference on CSOs operational environment.

He said that the conference was aimed at generating shared understanding and collective perspectives by stakeholders in this direction.

Oviawe said the conference would also discuss increasing public awareness about the roles of CSOS and the need for an enabling regulatory environment that protects the sector from repressive legislations.

According to him, ”there is a concern about the low level of awareness of existing regulations among relevant stakeholders, including CSOS, NGOS and regulators.”

He said that in spite of the existence of over a dozen legislations, Nigerian lawmakers for example, still claim, “there is no law that regulates the activities of NGOs.”

Oviawe said that instead of interrogating the effectiveness and relevance of extant regulations, each administration since 2007, was swift to introduce another legislation to regulate CSOS/NGOs.

“The recent was the re-introduction of the NGO bill on the floor of the House of Representatives in July,’’ he said.

“This event was the first of its kind in Nigeria as there has not been any previous attempt to bring various stakeholders to discuss pertinent issues that affect the effectiveness and impact of the civil society sector.

“The conference will also address the enabling conducive regulatory environment for CSO operations in the country,’’ Oviawe said.

He said the conference was supported by the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and West Africa and EU-Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) Programme through a collaboration of EU-ACT Programme.

Others, he said, are Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and USAID-Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE), aimed at improving the civil society regulatory environment in Nigeria.

Oviawe said that in spite of the availability of over a dozen legislations and policies that currently guide the activities of the not for-profit sector, at least five unsuccessful attempts had been made within the past decade by different regulatory agencies.

According to him, ”every National Assembly introduces new legislations and policies to further regulate CSO operations without recourse to extant legal provisions.”

He said that instead, ”a misguided perception continued to expand the narrative among these regulatory agencies that CSOs were not adequately regulated.

“There is the need for capacity improvement and enabling regulatory environment require attention to strengthen CSO operations in Nigeria.

“It is, however, expedient to address the concerns around the regulatory framework as several issues embedded therein need to be clarified in order to clear the air of the current state of confusion among  stakeholders,’’ Oviawe said.

He said that EU-ACT collaborated with the National Steering Committee on Civil Society Regulatory Environment to host the conference which is designed as a response to address some of these concerns.

Oviawe said, ”it was necessary to address the concerns around the regulatory framework as several issues embedded therein need to be clarified in order to clear the air on issues.

“It is on this premise that the EU-ACT has collaborated with the National Steering Committee on Civil Society Regulatory Environment to orgainse the conference to address some of these concerns.

“Currently, there is no unified perspective about what should constitute a body of regulations for CSOs and this has resulted in various interpretations by different actors on how the sector should be regulated.

“ Unless resolved and properly clarified, this issue of multiple definitions will continue to put both regulatory agencies and civil society actors at loggerheads,’’ he said.(NAN)

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