Nigeria crackdown on foreign funded NGOs

LGBT & human rights organisations will be affected

Global trend by repressive regimes to block foreign donors

London – 1 October 2014


“The Nigerian government is cracking down on foreign funding in the name of transparency and anti-corruption. But human rights and civil society organisations – including women’s rights and LGBTI advocacy groups – fear that the proposed legislation is also designed to prevent them from receiving grants from overseas to fund their projects,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“Under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) wishing to receive foreign funding must register with the government regulator, detail the amount to be received and how it will be used, secure authorisation to receive the funds and get permission to spend them on its specified projects. The regulator has the right to refuse to allow foreign finance. Any individual or NGO that violates these rules will be liable to two years jail. This looks like an attempt to stifle social initiatives that are disapproved by the government,” he said.

Read the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill in full:

The proposed restrictions on foreign funding are symptomatic of a drift to authoritarianism. They come just months after draconian anti-gay legislation became law in Nigeria.

The foreign funding Bill has been condemned as an attack on civil society by Nigeria’s Coalition for the Defence of Sexual Rights (CDSR):

“The Bill is a clear violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association as guaranteed under the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, and the provisions of articles 10(1) and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

“The Bill contravenes Nigerian’s obligation (…under) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” noted Dorothy Aken’Ova of INCRESE.

“In a country with a weak culture of philanthropy and poor understanding of sexual and reproductive rights relating to women, girls and LGBTI persons, of which we advocate, foreign money is essential to sustain our voices as a civil society,” said Joseph Sewedo, a member of the coalition.

Mr. Ugoh Thaddeus, who represented the CDSR at the public hearing on the Bill, remarked: “The provisions of the Bill are retrogressive and will only escalate existing problems in the society.”

Read the CDSR statement in full:

The Solidarity Alliance brings together human rights defenders, sexual rights organisations and providers of HIV services to LGBTIs and other sexual minorities in Nigeria. It says new legislation to tackle corruption is unnecessary, as Nigeria already has anti-corruption laws.

Dr Cheikh Eteka Traore, co-chair of the Solidarity Alliance, makes the point:

“The Solidarity Alliance is convinced that the proposed bill to regulate foreign funding to Nigerian NGOs…is a clear pointer to the fact that it’s promoters merely lack knowledge of the true picture of the policy regime in place in Nigeria that regulates the NGO funding process. Available facts shows that Nigeria currently enjoys one of the most robust system of checks and balances regulating the financial operation of NGOs and other civil society groups. The Solidarity Alliance thus aligns itself to the larger but common effort by the umbrella Civil Society Committee, set up and championing the engagement process with the House of Assembly. We have full confidence in the leadership of this Committee and we are certain this issue will be conclusively rested with factual arguments about the futility of duplicating an existing, functional regulatory framework – especially in the light of the critical role that NGOs continue to play in the development process of our country.”

“The restrictions proposed in Nigeria are part of a new global trend by repressive regimes to use controls on foreign funding to stymie civil society movements that they dislike,” added Mr Tatchell

See this report in The Economist:

“Similar legislation against foreign funding has been passed by Azerbaijan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan and Venezuela. Several other countries are planning to follow suit, including Bangladesh, Malaysia and Egypt. The NGOs most affected are those defending human rights, gender equality, reproductive rights, sexual health and LGBTI communities.

“In Egypt, strongman President Sisi has ordered life imprisonment for recipients of foreign funding who act against undefined national interests, unity or social stability.

“The use of financial regulations to undermine the work of NGOs threatens the human rights and welfare of vulnerable people who depend on these NGOs for assistance,” said Mr Tatchell.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill

Key clauses

An ACT to regulate the acceptance and utilization of financial/material contribution of donors agencies to voluntary organisations and for matters connected therewith.

Sponsored by Hon. Eddie Ifeanyichukwu Mbadiwe

2.- (a) No voluntary organization shall accept any foreign Financial/Material contribution except with the Permission of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission;

3.- (2)
(iii) All voluntary organizations so registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission shall give within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed, information to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission as to the amount of such financial contribution received the sources, amount, purpose and the manner in which such contribution will be utilized by it.

5.- (1) The regulatory authority shall in addition to its duty and powers prescribed in section 5 and 6 of its principal Act exercise the following powers:

(a) May prohibit any voluntary organizations from accepting any financial foreign contribution if it considers such contribution as likely to affect:
(i) The sovereignty and integrity of Nigeria;
(ii) Adverse diplomatic relation of any foreign country;
(iii) Religious Harmony in Nigeria;

11. Whoever accepts or assists any person, voluntary organization in accepting any foreign financial contribution in contravention of any provision of this bill or any rule made thereunder shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of two years.

13. The provisions of this bill shall not apply to any transaction between the government of Nigeria and the government of any foreign country.