The European Union and the British Council have urged Civil Society organisations in Nigeria to collaborate with the government in mapping out an enabling environment for the sector.
The National Programme Manager, Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation (ACT) Programme, Damilare Babalola said the European Union and the British Council through the ACT programme aim to facilitate the relationship between government, CSOs, and regulatory agencies to promote mutual understanding, enabling environment and sustainable development programmes across the country
The European Union-funded ACT Programme was inaugurated in Nigeria on September 24, 2019, to contribute to inclusive, effective, responsible, and gender-responsive development in the country.
Babalola said this on Thursday in Abuja during a knowledge share fair with the theme: “ Nigerian CSOs Translating Knowledge to Capacity and Impact.”
While lamenting the gap in the nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, he said: “There are misconceptions that civil organisations are not regulated but the fact is that they are well regulated but there are issues around compliance but ACT seeks to promote compliance “
He also explained that: “We also notice weak capacity in some CSOs. Civil society is part of the mechanism used to drive sustainable development globally. They are involved in policy advocacy and policy engagement at different levels hence we need them to have a strengthened capacity. They need to put the internal governance in place, HR policies, account policy to aid their functionalities.”
He said the government needs to understand the space before setting laws and regulations.
“Regulatory agencies should come out and sensitize civil society organizations on the need for regulations. The FIRS should come out and enlighten CSOs more about the taxes and the consequences of not complying. PENCOM should enlighten actors in CSOs the government shouldn’t make laws on assumption,” he noted.
In his remarks, Executive Director, of Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), Oyebisi Oluseyi said CSOs are interested in regulations that enable smooth operations but kick against those that shrink civic space and stand against them performing social responsibilities to the communities they are meant to reach
He said: “We don’t want laws that will not allow us to do our work effectively. There’s a myth that nonprofit organizations are not regulated, but experience from what we have done showed that there are 54 existing laws that guide our operations.
We don’t want a law that will not allow us to help the common man. If government policy is not working and we spark up, we don’t want a situation where the law will be used to arrest us. We also want to carry out projects in communities without government shrinking resources meant for community development projects.”
Senior Director for Advocacy, Centre for Civilians in Conflict, The Hague, Netherlands Udo Ilo,, said CSOs must focus on sustainable programs, in line with the government policies, and will impact the Nigerian community.
He emphasized the need for CSOs to strengthen internal governance and control for accountability, public confidence, and trust. He also urged Civil societies to engage with the government for more understanding.
While commending the European Union and the British Council for the ACT Program, Mina Ogbanga, chief operations officer, of Rivers Network of NGOs said Regulatory agencies should make policies easy for compliance and not make processes unnecessarily cumbersome especially when it comes to registration.