The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is commending the House of Representatives, particularly Hon. Tajudeen Abbas (Bill sponsor) for bowing to popular pressure and dropping the controversial Civil Society Regulatory Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2020. This is quite commendable and shows that the members of the House of Representative have a listening ear and are ready to consider the developmental impact of their decisions on the people, says CISLAC in a statement in Abuja.
But CISLAC is, on the other hand, asking the National Assembly to go further and kill what it calls other controversial bills and by which it means the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, also known as the Social Media Bill; the Hate Speech (Prohibition) Bill, 2019 and the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Est. etc.) Bill, 2019.
CISLAC is specifically insisting that there is no need to establish a Commission for Regulation of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as CSOs are, in its view, already regulated by a number of existing laws. It mentions such laws as the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)’s appropriate taxes and exemptions for non-profit funds; Financial Reporting Council’s subjection of audit reports produced by non-profits to the International Financial Reporting Standards and the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML) which ensures compliance with anti-money laundering regulations.
Apart from the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, also known as the Social Media Bill plagiarizing a similar Bill by the Singapore parliament, the Nigerian version leaves the government too much leverage in the interpretation of relativistic terms such as “Falsehood” and “Truth,” which the NGO is arguing to be a violation of enshrined constitutional rights to freedom of expression.
It hinges its condemnation of the aforementioned Bills in their entirety on its belief that the punitive sanctions prescribed by the Hate Speech Bill are extreme and draconian laws more applicable to only a non-democratic government out to infringe on the rights of citizens.
CISLAC is, instead, advising the National Assembly how more pertinent it would be for it to concentrate more on the legal frameworks and processes that will contribute to the developmental agenda, curbing corruption and promoting transparency and accountability in governance, bearing in mind that the major legislative function is to strengthen oversight over every strata of government to ensure that wastage is reduced to the barest level.