By Emmanuel AddehÂ in Yenagoa
Ijaw youths yesterday rejected a bill in the National Assembly aimed at regulating the activities of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria.Â
The bill is sponsored by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Umar Buba Jibril.
Â The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide, in a statement signed by its Spokesman, Daniel Dasimaka, described the proposed law asÂ â€œanti-democraticâ€ and aÂ â€œwaste of scarce public resources aimed at creating new avenues for rewarding cronies of politicians.â€Â
It said: â€œThe IYC is against this bill because it portends a grave danger to our democracy. For the education of those who may not know what is at stake here, if passed, the Act shall create a Commission that would be responsible for the issuance licences to all NGOs.Â
â€œThis will require renewing such licences every two years or less. And if the Commissionâ€™s board declines to renew any groupâ€™s licence, the NGO will cease to operate.
Â â€œ If any NGO spends without the Commissionâ€™s permission it would amount to a crime which attracts a jail term of up to 18 months. We, Ijaw youths are using this medium to call on all lovers of democracy all over the world to rise in condemnation of this anti-democratic piece of legislation.
â€œ It is aimed at weakening, delegitimising and stifling the voices and works of independent and credible Non-Governmental Organisationsâ€.
The youth group alleged that the bill was copied from repressive states and regimes like those in Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, noting that it was aimed at achieving the criminalisation of expressions of peaceful dissent.
Â According to the IYC, if passed into law, it will also put the spanner in the works of the legitimate work of NGOs and individual human rights defenders and activists scrutinising corruption in the National Assembly and exposing human rights violations by the government.
Â â€œIt is tragic and ironic that the National Assembly that is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the thankless sacrifices of Civil Society in confronting years of military misruleÂ are the ones today trying to stifle them,â€ the group noted.
IYC maintained that the proposed bill that was calling for the setting up of yet another federal agency to be known as the NGO Regulatory Commission, with an Executive Secretary and a 17-member Governing Board was a needless waste of public resources.