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A Christian group has criticized the Non-Governmental Organization Bill seeking to regulate the affairs of NGOs in the country.

The bill — titled, “A Bill for an Act to provide for the Establishment of a Non-Governmental Organization Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, etc. in Nigeria and for Related Matters,” has already passed the second reading at the House of Representatives.

The Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Umar Jibril, who is the sponsor of the bill, has said it is in the interest of Nigerians, noting also that the bill is to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the way NGOs collect and use funds. He also said the bill would not affect mosques or churches.

A section of the public believes the bill is aimed at clamping down on the organizations, but some lawmakers insist that it will help curb alleged corruption among NGOs in the country.

But the Catholic groups said on Sunday that the bill could be Mr. Umar’s “subtle way of promoting and protecting his religion (Islam).”

In a statement by their national director, Evaristus Bassey, the groups – Caritas Nigeria, and Justice, Development and Peace Commission, JDPC – accused Mr. Jibril of ”trying to promote Islam through the bill.”

“…Knowing full well that his religion demands him to use his position to promote and protect religion, is this Hon. Umar’s subtle way of promoting and protecting his religion by setting up a framework in which others might be persecuted?” the group queried.

The groups said “such bills that seem to put the House on a face-off with citizens only portray the House as intent on protecting a ‘Lootocracy’ that should not be questioned, hence the intent on muzzling NGOs. This bill is not in the interest of the House itself.

“We would advise that in the light of all the deep concerns expressed by well-meaning citizens, the National Assembly dropped all attempts to legislate on NGOs and allow NGOs originate such legislation themselves as private member’s bill.”

A former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, had also launched a campaign against the bill, saying the proposed law would affect religious bodies and humanitarian agencies. A senator, Shehu Sani, has also said he would oppose the bill when it comes to the Senate.


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