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NGO Bill & Fate Of FG’s Establishments In The Hand Of Rouge CSOs —By Gbadebo Smith


Facts have started emerging to why the National Assembly (NASS) is eager to pass the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) bill. 
Olanrewaju Suraju of CSNAC

Facts have started emerging to why the National Assembly (NASS) is eager to pass the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) bill. 

Apart from the need to ensure national security protection by monitoring the finances of the NGOs, the problem of criminal harassment, intimidation and blackmail of federal government establishments, as well as the three arms of government for financial gain by criminal elements within the fold of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) formed the main plank of the bill.

It is no more news that the proposed bill did not receive the blessing of Nigerians because of modus operandi of the implementation and supervision of the NGOs in the expected law that will emerge from it. 

However, stakeholders at the public hearing conducted by the House of Representatives committee on NGO, held on December 13, 2017, admitted that there is urgent need to check the activities of rouge elements within its fold. The consensus among genuine CSOs was that, in order to preserve the independence of the NGOs, there is urgent need for self-regulation.

As a result the need for independence of NGOs, a group of patriotic Nigerians, made-up of professionals from different walks of life, under the banner of, SanitiseNGOs, met in Abuja to find a way of checking the criminal activities of rogue CSOs. 

To sanitize the NGOs in Nigeria to operate in accordance with international best practice, this redemptive group agreed that Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) will have to play a vital but patriotic role here. From investigation of the activities of Anti- corruption CSOs in Nigeria, it was discovered that some of them use the CSOs for criminal extortion and blackmail in disguise.

It was also discovered that rouge CSOs take advantage of government’s simplification of NGO registration in Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), to register as many NGOs as possible, then coined a name to depict the NGOs as a either Coalition or Network under the coined name. 

For instance, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), is a CSO with more than 150 NGOs according to its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, who is lawyer by profession. While in company registration, individual companies maintain their separate identity under a group. 

This is not the case in coalition or network of NGOs for the purpose of financial returns and proper auditing. 

In group accounting, the balance sheet shows the financial activities of each and every company under the group. Experts in financial matters and auditing have called on government to develop a proper accounting standard for NGOs to ensure sanity in their financial dealings.

According to SanitiseNGOs finding, most of the chairmen or directors of dubious anti-corruption CSOs are lawyers by profession. Having failed in legal practices, they elected to float NGO, with sole intension of making money. 

Although, there are clean and genuine ones around, but they don’t go around claiming to have 200 NGOs under their Network or Coalition. 

The task before barrister Abubakar Mahmoud-led NBA is to design a template code of conduct for non-practicing lawyers, so as to insulate the profession from criminal tendencies of some chief executives of some CSOs. 

NBA is too illustrious a body to be tarnished by the activities of some bad elements. The fact that a lawyer is not in legal practice, does not mean his activities cannot be monitored.

NGO Bill &The Fate Of FG’s Establishments  In The Hand Of Rouge CSOs continues…

SanitiseNGOs finds it difficult to understand the reason why for instance, a lawyer by profession, who is a worker in the temple of justice, should talk contemptuously of National Judicial Council (NJC). 

If for any reason, a petition against serving or retired judge(s) on corruption is not treated by NJC, the right action to be taken by CSNAC that sent in the petition is to petition the judicial committees in both houses of national assembly, for the bodies to find out the reason behind the delay. 

Any of the two chambers’ judicial committee can even conduct public hearing on it, if need be. Instead of this civilized option, the chairman of CSNAC, Olanrewaju Suraju, elected to embark on media war against the NJC and its officials; labeling them as lacking in integrity and corrupt. 

But behind the name calling by CSNAC is probably the longing for hit back. Of about 200 NGOs that makeup CSNAC, 5 or 10 them are surly suspected to be part of the plethora of partnership contracts proposals on either capacity building, anti-corruption seminar and sponsorship abroad for research, sought with NJC to which the body refused, on the ground of paucity of fund. 

Information has it that appeal had been made in the past to the CSOs particularly, CSNAC, NOPRIN, etc. to disclose the identities of those NGOs they claim makeup their CSOs, but they never bothered to do that. The question remains, why are they refusing to make the disclosure?

The story of harassment, intimidation and blackmail of government officials for partnership contract by rouge NGOs under some amorphous coalitions and networks is rife in Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). 

The modus operandi of these CSOs is just the same with what this writer motioned in the above paragraphs. The case of ICPC is even more pathetic. 

It will be recalled that sequel to a petition written by one Aaron Kaase, who was suspended by Police Service Commission ((PSC) for allegation bordering on criminal activities and the conclusive investigation of same, the ICPC has been under consistent attacks from CSNAC. 

After a thorough investigation of Kaase’s allegations, ICPC discovered that the issues raised were administrative in nature and should be handled administratively, and that there was no criminal indictment of the chairman, Sir Mike Okiro.

CSNAC, through its chairman, Suraju Olanrewaju, thought otherwise, consequently, he dragged the agency to Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. 

When the advisory body threw away his petition, he turned attention to the office of the Secretary to government of the federation; all in effort to tarnish the image of PSC chairman because the commission did not give partnership contracts to some of his numerous NGOs under CSNAC. 

He has re-petitioned ICPC again to open a case it had already thrashed out. Investigation by SanitiseNGOs shows that Olanrewaju is just using the suspension of Aaron Kaase who is still standing trial, as an excuse to portray the officials of ICPC as corrupt and justice perverts, as payback for contract denial.

Information has it that Kaase duped one Idabelemi Hart of one million naira, on the pretext of securing US visa for him.

National assembly members are equally not speared of the character assignation of Suraju Olanrewaju’s CSNAC. The leadership of NASS is also not left out. The story is the same for President Muhammadu Buhari’s inner cabinet members. 

Maman Daura, Abba Kyari and Ali Mangunu are some of those he had used CSNAC to portray in bad light. The attorney general and minister of justice is one of the victims of vicious attack from amorphous CSNAC. 

The list is endless and the funny aspect of it all is that the network merely re-circles stories about corrupt allegation in public domain, the network never originated corruption allegation independently.

Attempts by well meaning Nigerians to engage Suraju on the nature of his crusade on social media platform, Facebook, where he advertises his petitions, only attracted disappointedly dishonest reactions from him. 

For instance, this post on the activities of CSNAC only elicited insult and name calling from Suraju: 

“The information is that Suraju Olanrewaju uses over 150 NGOs he claims make-up CSNAC to harass and blackmail federal government establishment for partnership contract. He has refused to disclose the names of these NGOs under his CSNAC, raising concerns of fraudulent practice in the CSO. 

“A group of people committed to serenity in NGOs are planning to approach the Court to compel CSNAC to disclose the identity of these NGOs”.

According to SanitiseNGOs, based on their findings on Olanrewaju Suraju, he was appointed into Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trail Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO), by the chief justice of the federation (CJN) as representative of NGOs. 

To rational minds, Suraju is not fit to represent the NGO community in COTRIMCO based on apparent intellectual dishonesty on his part. He is not fit to sit in the midst of illustrious personalities in the committee. 

There are many anti-corruption activists from which the CJN can appoint to credibly represent the CSOs. Someone who intimidates and portrays judges as corrupt and lacking in integrity just because judgment did not favour his client, particularly, when there is still avenue for appeal, is at best, a misfit and mockery of COTRIMCO, SanitiseNGOs reasoned. 

Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) led NBA is hereby enjoined to thoroughly audit Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and over 150 other NGOs which Suraju uses to harass federal government establishments, for personal gains.      

Finally, to put a final stop to organized criminality by some CSOs in the name of fighting corruption, this writer will like to advice NBA to liaise with NASS to amend relevant laws relating to registration of and supervision of NGOs in Nigeria. This will go a long way in bringing sanity to the operation of civil society organizations in the country.

Gbadebo Smith, a member of SanitiseNGOs group, wrote in from Festac, Lagos.

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