Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, has yesterday condemned the proposed bill seeking to establish a regulatory commission for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the country.

Kukah who spoke during a two-day public hearing organised House of Representatives Committee on NGOs, Civil Societies and Donor Agencies yesterday, warned that the existing suspicion of citizens should not be further aggravated.

He argued that there are already enough laws in the country, calling on the lawmakers should rather direct attention and energy at “the bureaucracy that is malfunctioning”, to put things rights.

“I stand with the Civil Society Organisations. We don’t want anything that will muzzle them, because without the CSOs, democracy will be in danger. We have enough laws already; as a priest, if I fall short of the law (by stealing), treat me a thief, and not as a priest”, he said.

Chairman of the committee, Hon Peter Akpatason, had in Defence of the bill, said it was with the objective of establishing the commission for supervision, coordination and monitoring NGOs in Nigeria.

This according to him will enable the NGO’s accomplish their various missions in a transparent and accountable manner.

Meanwhile several organisations who were in attendance also kicked against the bill. For instance, Mr. Clement Nwankwo of the Policy and Advocacy Centre (PLAC) described the bill as having “several worrying aspects”, adding that it failed to acknowledge the existing legal regime under which NGOs operate, including constitutional provisions, and part C (Incorporated Trustees) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.

Also, Mr. Osai Ojigho of the Amnesty International (Nigeria), Dr. Abiola Akinade of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi of the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education among several other stakeholders sternly opposed passage of the bill.

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