The Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) programme is working to provide platforms for structured and regular multi-stakeholder engagements for an improved and effective civil society regulatory environment. The programme has facilitated the emergence of civil society organisation (CSO) coordination platforms to promote constructive dialogue among CSOs and stakeholders on how to improve the current complex regulatory environment for CSO operations in Nigeria.
DIALOGUE ON THE NEW COMPANIES AND ALLIED MATTERS ACT
As part of this effort, ACT collaborated with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to organise a virtual town hall meeting on the country's new Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA 2020), which was enacted in August 2020. The theme of the meeting was: ‘CAMA 2020: Regulation or Repression?’. It provided a platform for civil society and government to discuss the features of the new law.
Although the amended law has been welcomed by the country’s business sector, various sections of the law pertaining to the regulation of CSOs (grouped under non-governmental organisations as NGOs and Non-Profits) were deemed contentious by civil society. For example, Part F of the CAMA 2020 covers governance and guidance on the incorporation of trustees for NGOs and Non-Profits, and section 839 gives the CAC power to suspend and remove trustees who are involved in misconduct.
The virtual town hall meeting was attended by 150 participants from government, civil society, the donor community, human rights lawyers, academia, and the media. It was broadcast live on Radio Nigeria and streamed on Facebook. A key outcome was the consensus that the discussion should be advanced and led by a small and effective multi-stakeholder team established to further dialogue and negotiate with government.
ENGAGING THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Following the town hall meeting, ACT met with key stakeholders from the National Assembly to discuss the outcomes and explore areas of collaboration to enhance the civil society regulatory environment. During the meeting, representatives from both the National Assembly and the Office of the Deputy Senate President stated their readiness to support public consultations and discussions on broader issues to strengthen the civil society regulatory environment, including proposals for the amendment of CAMA 2020.
The meeting also explored mechanisms and options for establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform that will facilitate regular and constructive engagements on issues of the civil society regulatory environment with a view to spotting the gaps / overlaps and resolving problematic areas. Also discussed was the need to carry out a strategic review of civil society regulatory frameworks at the national and sub-national levels and involving CSOs in the country’s law-making process.
The Office of the Deputy Senate President (DSP) on NGOs disclosed that it is currently collaborating with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and other bodies, on the development of a database to document CSOs and development partners across the country. ACT will be invited to participate in the further development of this initiative.