The National Assembly on Tuesday, September 26, says it cannot be intimidated into abandoning its legislative duty of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, stated this in his address to welcome lawmakers after the seven-week recess. Dogara in reaction to the controversy surrounding the NGO Bill, said the principal objective of the bill is to inject transparency, accountability and prevent the subversion of national security from both within and without.
The speaker said that members of the lower chamber were also aware of the criticism over the NGO Bill which had passed second reading and was at committee stage.
He said: "Public criticism of the content of the Bill is a welcome development and there are many who are doing just that. Indeed it is the reason why every Bill is subjected to Public Hearing so that the inputs of stakeholders can be obtained to ensure public buy in. I hasten to say that all Nigerians and other corporate persons including non Nigerians, are stakeholders and have a right to support or oppose a Bill.
However when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution of the legislature then it becomes imperative to interrogate the motives driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know. Everyone should understand that the principal objective of the NGO Regulation Bill is to inject transparency, accountability and prevent the subversion of national security from both within and without.
No one can nor indeed should gag the operations of NGOs in Nigeria, but just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such thing as freedom to be irresponsible.
There are also desperate attempts to instigate religious bodies and cultural Organizations to oppose the Bill by spreading falsehood that they are the target of this bill. For the avoidance of doubt, let me state once again that Churches, Mosques, Esussu, Market Women Associations as well as Local Quasi Financial Institutions are NOT NGOs and thus the bill has nothing to do with their operations.
The legislative process cannot be short circuited. The National Assembly cannot be intimidated into abandon its sacred legislative duties of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure. This openness and transparency is what the NGOs have always canvassed and promoted and they should therefore embrace this opportunity to interrogate the issues with open arms."