TODAY, the House of Representatives will hold a public hearing on the bill for an Act to "regulate the acceptance and utilisation of financial/material contribution of donor agencies for voluntary organisations".
Whereas the legislature is meant to make laws for the good governance of the people, this is one law that would make our people poorer and freeze their constitutionally awarded liberties.
Should operations involving foreign financial and material donations to voluntary organisations be regulated? Yes, in fact various laws already do. They are probably not enforced. A new law does not guarantee improved enforcement.
We praise the House of Representatives for not falling into the temptation of proposing a new body for the law. At least, it listened to the public outcry against mounting costs of maintaining multiple bureaucracies that duplicate functions. They are new wastes that ensure almost 70 per cent of annual national budgets is spent on re-current expenditure - salaries, furniture and a new favourite, maintenance of computers.
Section 2 of the bill proposes that voluntary organisations would be restricted from accepting any foreign financial and material contribution except with the permission of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC. The Section would create a new centre of corruption in ICPC, which is groaning under constraints of staffing and funding. ICPC gives these as reasons for its lethargic results.
The law would shackle flow of foreign remittances by families to groups like town unions, churches, mosques, non-governmental organisations, NGOs, foundations, charities, schools, and homes for the less privileged.
Where branches or partners of these organisations abroad make the remittances, the funds cannot be accepted without the permission of ICPC. What are the implications?
g for organisations like Red Cross, Red Crescent, or foundations that have led the fight against river blindness and guinea worm eradication. By the proposed law, ICPC would approve their operations. In case of emergencies like the 2012 flooding that ravaged parts of Nigeria, foreign organisations that intend to assist, would be hindered.
The promoters of the bill hardly know Nigeria. For more than a decade, foreign medical intervention teams, involving massive movement of resources, have saved Nigerian lives. Yearly, Nigerians in diaspora, with their partners set up these teams to carry out surgeries and other interventions, mostly free.
What alternatives would the House of Representatives provide for these?
Disclosure of sources of the funds is important. The Terrorism Prevention Act, the Companies and Allied Matters Act and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act cover this.
The bill, if passed, would hamper remittances and contributions from Nigerians abroad to Nigeria. Nobody needs a law that would make Nigerians poorer.