By WONNE Afronelly
At the just concluded maiden National Conference on Civil Society Regulatory Environment in Nigeria that held Tuesday September 13 to Thursday September 15, 2022 in Abuja, Nigeria, CSOs were urged by various Government Regulatory Agencies, Legislators, the Media, Donor Community Reps, Opinion Leaders, Development Partners and other interest groups to adopt a unified self regulatory roadmap for a better functional environment for CSOs to achieve better results.
REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR CSOs: GOVT REGULATORY AGENCIES, CSOs, OTHERS DELIBRATE ON OPERATIONAL…
By WONNE Afronelly
A government regulatory body, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) urged Civil Society Organizations to exploit the provisions of the nation’s company income tax laws to solicit funds from companies to finance their not for profit operations. Barr. Dauda Thihwi, a legal officer in the legal department of the FIRS, made the call while making a presentation titled, “ CSOs and Profit-making; legal perspective”, during the three-day National Conference. While pointing out that operations of CSOs are not taxed, Dauda however noted that profit made from businesses undertaken by subsidiaries of CSOs such as schools, hospitals and other social enterprises are taxed by the FIRS and urged CSOs to be abreast with the provisions of the law that such profits ought not to be shared by the promoters of the organization, but must be ploughed back to the CSO for the realization of its objectives.
Delivering a key note address on the topic, “Unpacking the Regulatory Framework for CSOs in Nigeria”, the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, (CAC) Alhaji Garba Abubakar who was represented by the Special Assistant to the RG, Mr. Terver Ayua-Jor said the topic for the keynote address presupposes that the regulatory environment for CSOs is currently constricted and requires loosing in order to make it effective. He opined that that assumption is exaggerated stating that the Nigerian constitution 1999 as amended in Section 40 made provisions that Nigerians can assemble freely and associate with other persons but however noted that, “there is usually a distinction between freedom of association and perceived rights to association under a particular name. While it is recognized there is fundamental right to association, there is no right to association under particular name. The use of a particular name requires licensing or registration and can be denied by a sovereign state or its agency. Such denial for failure to follow prescribed requirement would not amount to denial of right to association. “The availability of a name would for instance usually depend upon municipal laws. Thus section 852 of CAMA provides guidelines on which certain names can be denied.
In one of the communiques issued by participants, they urged regulators and the federal government to amongst other things note that, there is a low level of awareness of existing regulations among relevant stakeholders including CSOs and regulators alike. There is therefore the need for regulators to engage with the CSOs sector more in promoting mutual understanding. “There is a need for the government to drive incentives for companies operating in Nigeria to make donations to the nonprofit sector and such donations are to be deducted from the company’s tax liability as stipulated by the Company Income Tax Regulation.
In one of the break out sessions on ‘Statutory Vs Self-regulation: Complementary or Mutually Exclusive, Hon Ajibola Muraina representing Hon Kabiru Idris, Chairman House Committee on Civil Societies and Development Partners urged CSOs to focus on effective Self regulation as a major way to render some Statutory regulations almost useless. Hon Ajibola also stated that both parties would have to compliment each other. It was indeed a huge success.
This maiden edition of the conference is the first of its kind in Nigeria, aimed at improving the civil society regulatory environment in Nigeria and with support from the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and West Africa and EU-Agents for Citizen-driven Transformation (ACT) Programme through a collaboration of EU-ACT Programme, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and USAID-Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE).