The lack of a unified body that will regulate the activities of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria brought about 300 persons across Nigeria from the civil society sector, government regulatory agencies, legislators, donors, and other stakeholders to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital to discuss appropriate instruments of regulation and effective processes to regulate CSOs operation in Nigeria.
There were also over 1,000 virtual participants, drawn from representatives of CSOs, national and state-level regulatory agencies, development partners, donor community, private sector, opinion leaders, and other interest groups.
The program works to strengthen the capacities of 200 Civil Society Organizers including networks and coalitions in ten states selected across the six geo-political zones in the country.
The States are Adamawa, Borno, Edo, Enugu, the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Kano, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers, and Sokoto.
It also focused on providing a platform for multi-stakeholders dialogue for an improved, effective, and inclusive regulatory environment for the operation of Civil Society organizations in Nigeria and is being implemented across the thirty-six states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Addressing the participants, at the three-day conference with the theme “National Conference on Civil Society Operational Environment in Nigeria”, held at the NAF Conference Centre and Suites, Kado, Abuja Tuesday, Madam Samuela Isopi, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS represented by Deputy Head of EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Alexandre Borgis Gomes noted that the conference is timely ahead of general elections in Nigeria.
Earlier, the National Programme Manager, ACT program Damilare Babalola said the conference is the first of its kind that brought key stakeholders to discuss critical issues affecting the CSOs to enhance their capacity and generate a perspective of ensuring development in the country.
There were goodwill messages from Lucy Pearson, Country Director, British Council Nigeria, and Lydia Odeh Chief of Party, USAID-SCALE Programmes among others.
In the same vein, Edosa Oviawe, Programs Manager Global Rights Nigeria, who is the Chairman sub-committee of the conference while briefing newsmen at the venue of the event observed that the lack of a unified body that will regulate the activities of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria has put both regulatory agencies and civil society actors at loggerheads.
Oviawe explained that the conference is aimed at generating shared understanding and collective perspectives by stakeholders on appropriate instruments of regulation and effective processes to regulate CSO operations in Nigeria.
He said the public should be enlightened about the roles of CSOS and the need for an enabling regulatory environment that protects the sector from repressive legislation.
“Despite 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 have been made within the past decade by different regulatory agencies including the National Assembly to introduce new legislations and policies to further regulate CSO operations without recourse to extant legal provisions. Instead, a misguided perception continues to expand the narrative among these regulatory agencies that CSOs are not adequately regulated.
“Although 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 to clear the air of the current state of confusion among all concerned stakeholders,” he said.
The maiden edition of the conference is the first of its kind in Nigeria and is 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, 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.