The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has insisted that the National Assembly will not be intimidated, into abandoning its duty of providing a platform for Nigerians to agree or disagree on any proposed legislative measure.
Dogara stated this on Tuesday in Abuja, in his remarks at the resumption of plenary after the legislators’ seven-week recess.He was speaking in reaction to the controversy surrounding the NGO Bill.
“No one can nor indeed, should gag the operations of NGOs in Nigeria.
“But, just as they aspire for this freedom, it must be stated that freedom does not come without responsibility as there is no such thing as freedom to be irresponsible.
“There are also desperate attempts to instigate religious bodies and cultural organizations to oppose the Bill by spreading falsehood that they are the target of this bill.“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state once again that churches, mosques, esussu, market women associations as well as local quasi financial institutions are “not NGOs’’ and thus, the bill has nothing to do with their operations.
“The legislative process cannot be short circuited,” Dogara said.
The Speaker also said that members of the Lower Chambers, were also aware of the criticism over the NGO Bill, which had passed second reading and was at committee stage.
“Honourable members are also aware that the media have been awash with scathing criticism of the institution of the House of Representatives over the NGO Regulation Bill which has passed second reading and is at committee stage.“Public criticism of the content of the Bill is a welcome development and there are many who are doing just that.
“Indeed, it is the reason why every Bill is subjected to public hearing so that the inputs of stakeholders can be obtained to ensure public buy-in.
“I hasten to say that all Nigerians and other corporate persons, including non-Nigerians, are stakeholders and have a right to support or oppose a Bill.“However, when opinions are targeted at disparaging the institution of the legislature, then it becomes imperative to interrogate the motives driving such, especially when this emanates from those who should know,” he said.