The European Union and the British Council are building compliance of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country on regulatory frameworks.
Speaking at a workshop organized in Abuja to build the compliance of CSOs on regulatory frameworks, the Component 2 Manager of the European Union Agent for Citizen-driven Transformation (EU-ACT), Idem Udoekong, said the training which is beginning with CSOs/Networks/CBOs in the FCT (Abuja), would be extended to Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Adamawa, Enugu, Plateau and Borno States.
He noted that it would be extended to all states in the country through partners and higher institutions.
Udoekong while revealing that the training is sponsored by the European Union and British Council, noted that the issue of poor compliance of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on regulatory framework is attributable to lack of the requisite knowledge and information on regulations.
He noted that: “The issue of poor compliance of CSOs to existing civil society regulations can be attributed to so many factors including CSOs lack of the requisite knowledge and information about these regulations and how to go about such compliance. This assertion was reinforced by the outcome of the survey conducted by EU-ACT programme in March 2021 to establish the current levels of compliance with legal frameworks amongst its supported CSOs/Networks/CBOs in the FCT (Abuja), Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Adamawa, Enugu, Plateau and Borno States.
“The survey findings, for instance, indicated that out of the 119 CSOs’ responses that were processed, less than a third of the CSOs were compliant with the CAMA law, less than 10% of the CSOs were fully tax compliant and only 14% of the CSOs were SCUML compliant. And yet, compliance to regulatory frameworks is paramount to sustaining and strengthening civil society organisations.”
He said: “It was on this note that the Programme is organising trainings for its partner CSOs/Networks/CBOs across the aforementioned 10 focal states to improve CSOs’ awareness of the important regulations (CAMA, Taxation, Anti-Terrorism and Money Laundering, and Pension) and how they affect their operation; capacitate them on how to become effective in their compliance obligation to these regulations; as well as improve their compliance to them.”
He said working in partnership with relevant regulatory agencies, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Inland Revenues Service (FIRS), Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML) and Pension Commission (PenCom), the training would enable EU-ACT CSO partners to gain in depth knowledge of the requirement of the laws/regulations as well as receive continuous guidance on how to effectively and efficiently meet these requirements, noting that: “Representatives of these regulatory agencies would participate (in-person) in the trainings to provide technical inputs as well as address any compliance issues participant organisations might have.”
Udoekong, while noting that compliant to regulatory framework is paramount to sustaining and strengthening CSOs and keep them out of trouble, said: “This help to sustain the organisation as if you do not comply with the law, it may create room for abuse of the system, so regulations helps credibility in organisation as they always advocate for change and reform. They also need to be credible enough to fight the cause as research shows low compliance of CSOs to regulations.
“This low compliance is because they do not understand what they have to do. For example filing annual returns for companies in allied matters act. We expect them to have better knowledge of the law and comply the more, we want to see the level of compliance go up as a result of this training, which will be ten rounds of training around marked states, then the states networks.”
The lead resource person at the training, Prof. Adedeji Adekunle in his address reiterated that compliance to regulation is knowledge-driven, noting that sometimes organisations do not know what to do at times and people are scared of meeting regulations which sometimes indicate they have something to hide.
He said: “These regulations if not adhered to have penalties.”
On his part, the Special Assistant to the Registrar General/CEO, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Terver Ayua-Jor stated the need to deepen the knowledge on compliance and how it will benefit the regulator and those who are regulated.
Ayuba-Tor while noting that though so far the compliance level is encouraging, admitted that more education need to be done.
He said: “Some of these CSOs are not shying from compliance but sometime they have issues on how the best can be achieved so the office of the CAC is here to through more light on how it can be done in a seamless manner. Registration is a two way traffic, we expect that entities should comply with requirements of the registration as this is the way the commission can regulate CSO.”
One of the participants,James Ugochukwu of African Centre for Enterprenuership Information and Development, said the CSOs complement activities of the government, but lamented that over regulation of the space will be shutting the door to more person engaging in civil activities.
He said: “Persons come into CSOs to help solve a concern that people suffer. What we expect the government to do is to make the space safer for more persons to engage not to create stringent laws, like these laws are shrinking the CSOs space, these laws most times do not work positively. They are over regulating the activities of the CSOs.”