IDP, Masari and the NGOs

Without going into specific concepts or approaches contained in the performance index of the programme, available records/reports show that the majority of the countries including Nigeria performed below average in the United Nations introduced Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which lasted between the year 2000 and 2015. And was among other intentions aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger as well as achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health among others.

And, It was this reality and other related concerns that conjoined to bring about 2030 sustainable agenda- a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty.  And has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

What calls for emphasis here is that more than any other event in recent history the response to global bodies by Non-Governmental Organizations/Civil Society Groups has taught the world and Africa in particular positive lesson not just in words but in the areas of developmental support.

Take, as an illustration, Ishita Roy, Tanzil Al Raquib, Amit Kumar Sarker, while writing on an article entitled; Contribution of NGOs for Socio-Economic Development in Bangladesh and published on the Science Journals of Business and Management, among other praises for NGOs noted that nowadays Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs have become an extensively discussed theme in the third world countries as well as vastly in the social business world. Bangladesh is no exception.

The NGOs have appeared as the saviour of a countless number of people without food, cloth, education and basic health facilities. Bangladesh is one of the top thirteen underprivileged countries. With the record of being the most densely populated country on earth and feeble manpower competency, Bangladesh is facing a massive challenge to meet up the demand of her ever-increasing population. Hence NGOs in Bangladesh can continue playing the role of catalyst in the attainment of sustainable economic growth and development provided, an endurable, warm and dependable relationship is there between the Government and NGOs where both are working for the benefit of the people with numerable activities.

With the above fact in view, it becomes a troubling development that at a time NGOs are globally applauded for working based on the assessed need and demand of the people, organizing, creating awareness and incubating development-oriented programmes among the people, has become a ripe time for Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State, to place a ban on NGOs from IDPs camps in the Katsina state.

According to news reports, Masari while giving the order recently at the Army Special Super Camp IV, Faskari, warned Non-Government Organizations against going into any of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the state under any guise. “We will not allow these NGOs under whatever guise into our IDPs camps. “We know that the fight against bandits and banditry is not over but we can handle our displaced persons adequately because we have sufficient food, clothing, shelter and security for them while we strengthen efforts in restoring security for them to return to their respective homes.

Why this recent declaration by the Governor calls for concern is that it was a similar asymmetrical feeling towards NGOs in the country that led to the recent announcement by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila during a debate on a motion brought under matters of urgent public importance on funding for security agents, that; ‘it has become imperative to revisit the NGO bill due to the activities of NGOs in the North-eastern part of Nigeria. Particularly, as the Nigerian Army recently accused some international humanitarian organisation operating in North-east Nigeria of allegedly ‘aiding and abetting’ Boko Haram terrorists’.

The bill in question was first submitted to the 8th Assembly and seeks regulation of non-profitable organizations (NPOs) in Nigeria and demands for the establishment of a regulatory Commission that every NGO must be registered with, and sets out the requirements and procedure for registration.

Clear enough, there is no peripheral reason to accuse these public officials of blind ambition or power grab. Nevertheless, there are, strong evidence to think otherwise.

First and most fundamental is that Governor Masari did not recognize the fact that before taking a decision that has a far-reaching effect on the generality of the people, the public officer must write down each point of uncertainty, estimate the probability of a positive or a negative outcome in each case, and access the probable impact on the overall result if each decision should end in a negative outcome. 

Secondly, Masari like Femi Gbajabiamila were unmindful of the fact that NGOs are not just another platform for disseminating information, foodstuff and other relief materials that can be controlled at will. Rather, they are viable platforms for pursuing peace, truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas; in the same way, that government is a decentralized body for the promotion and protection of the people’s life chances. It is a platform, in other words, for development that the government must partner with.

Instead of placing a ban on NGOs, a major concern that one should have expected the government to address is the experts’ belief that proliferation of NGOs in any given nation is an indication of the weakness of its public sector. Haiti, the first country in the Western hemisphere, to gain independence and to abolish slavery is today widely regarded as a Republic of NGOs, competing with India for the highest rate of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) per capita in the world is but a perfect example.

Away from the above, comes the practical importance of NGOs in Nigeria.

To demonstrate this fact, it was in the news that the Kukah Centre (TKC), some months ago, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with the Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Management (IPSCM) of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, Taraba state. In my views, it was neither the government precedence nor their well-ordered behaviour in the past that prompted the development but the NGO’s corporate culture of compliance with the United Nation’s 2030 sustainable agenda which has at its centre; partnership and collaboration- and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society

The MOU going by reports was the high point of a one day conference by The Kukah Centre in partnership with (IPSCM) supported by the Department of International Development (DFID) from the UK, and has as objective; tackling conflict and ensuring sustainable peace and development in Taraba and beyond.

In a similar declaration by the organization during a four-day workshop tagged ‘’Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement’’ for Christians and Muslims in Minna, Niger State,  to introduce skill acquisition centres in the Northern part of the country where about 10 million Almajiri children will acquire vocations of their choice.

If the above facts are anything to go by, what I feel should be the preoccupation of a responsive government is to; find ways these NGOs works can integrate into those of the public sector since the state is weak. Most importantly, find answers to how they can effectively perform their responsibilities in such a way that will impact positively more on the lives of Nigerians as it is obvious that all strata of government can no longer single-handedly shoulder the crushing weight of infrastructural and socio-economic development in the country. What they (NGOs) need is support and not regulation.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is a Lagos-based Media Consultant.

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