CSOs seek harmonization of regulatory framework.

CSOs seek harmonization of regulatory framework.

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By Onwa Ekor, Calabar





Worried by overbearing standards that stifle their productivity, stakeholders at the just concluded Southern regional conference on improving regulatory environment for CSO operations in Nigeria, have called for extant laws to enhance their operations.

They also canvassed for regulatory framework to check multiplicity of registration requirements and a thorough interpretation of item 32, Part one of the second schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (As amended).

The event with the theme, “Forging partnerships for sustainable operational environment for the non profit sector in Nigeria,” was organised by Global Rights, in synergy with Community of Practice on Civil Space Strengthening, with support from European Union Delegation to Nigeria and West Africa (EUDEL) and held in Calabar, the Cross River capital, which serves as the first host among other states of Akwaibom, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Anambra and Ebonyi.

Executive Director Global Rights, Abiodun Baiyewu, in his address, remarked that over the past decades, CSOs have evolved from small, informal groups into robust entities that play a critical role in advocacy, human rights and community development.

Baiyewu represented by the Programme Manager of Global Rights, Edosa Oviawe, maintained that activities of CSOs have been instrumental in addressing issues of poverty, education, health and governance, often filling gaps left by the government.

According to the Global Rights Executive Director, “expansion of CSOs have been supported by increased access to donor funding, greater engagement with the private sector and enhanced capacity building initiatives.”

Baiyewu further disclosed that the mirage of challenges arising from the multiplicity of registrations at subnational levels as well as compliance regimes, constrict CSO operational environment while impeding their capacities to achieve compliance and operate adequately.

The Executive Director further appealed to the Cross River governor, Prince Bassey Otu, to consider the development and approval of a policy for harmonizing registration requirements to eliminate multiplicity of registration.

Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Massimo De Luca represented by the Programme Manager, CSOs and Youths, EUDEL, Wynyfred Achu-Egbuson, noted that CSOs play pivotal role in fostering democracy, promoting human rights and driving social and economic development.

“They are the bridge between the government and the people, ensuring that the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable are heard, however the effectiveness of CSOs is significantly influenced by the regulatory environment in which they ooerate.

“In Nigeria, CSOs face numerous challenges including complex registration processes, restrictive laws and limited access to funding,” De Luca said.

Continuing, EUDEL Head of Cooperation reasoned that an unconducive regulatory environment hinders operations of CSOs as constantly changing or unclear regulations make long term planning difficult, affirming also that “CSOs cannot build sustainable strategies when the rules of the game keep shifting.”

De Luca argued that an overly regulated environment would lead to increased costs arising from additional resources for legal counsel and compliance measures, a development that would see the utilization of funds meant for programme implementation being diverted for human resources.

“Non compliance due to misunderstanding or inability to keep up with regulatory changes can lead to penalties, legal challenges or even shutdowns.

“Bureaucratic delays in registration, reporting or receipt funds can stall project implementation, reducing the overall impact of CSO initiatives.

“An unstable regulatory environment can erode donor confidence as they may perceive the risk of investing in a region with unpredictable legal frameworks,” EUDEL Head said while listing effects of hiccups.

For Cross River governor, Prince Bassey Otu represented by the Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Moses Osogi, the event represents a crucial step towards enhancing collective efforts in the promotion of sustainable development and environmental stewardship across communities.

His words: “As you seek for laws that support the effectiveness of CSOs in Nigeria, structure your recommendation around the four pillars of transparency, inclusiveness, independency and accountability.

“As you embark on this journey aimed at providing an enabling environment for CSOs, remain mindful of a broader societal impact of our decisions because, by empowering CSOs to operate freely and effectively, we empower communities to participate freely in saving their own future and safeguarding their natural resources for generations to come.”

Chairman, House of Representatives committee on civil society and development matters, Hon. Victor Obuzor, the Cross River Chief Judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme represented by Hon. Justice Elias Abua, as well as the Clerk of the State House of Assembly, Barr Kate Ubi, among others, stressed the need for improved regulatory landscape of CSOs, admitting that a conducive environment would see CSOs performing optimally as catalyst for positive change.

Earlier, Co-Chair of Community of Practice on Civil Space Strengthening, Ken Henshaw, decried the several regulatory bottlenecks, advocating the need for an overhaul in order to create a favourable environment for CSOs to operate.

He referred to as untrue a situation where CSOs are considered as antagonists to the interest of government, admitting that, there should rather be a marriage to allow both the government and CSOs create a nation or state that is impressive in all ramifications.

The event featured networking and panel dialogue.

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