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Freedom of Association, Assembly, and Expression (NG0027)



Action Plan: Nigeria Action Plan 2019-2022

Action Plan Cycle: 2019



Lead Institution: National Human Rights Commission

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Budget and National Planning, National Assembly, Ministry of Information, Corporate Affairs Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Special Control Unit on Money Laundering, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Financial Reporting Council, Department of State Service, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army, Civil Defense, National Orientation Agency, Bureau for Public Service Reforms (BPSR). Spaces for Change, Media Rights Agenda, Paradigm Initiative, Nigeria Network of NGOs, Amnesty International, PLAC, CISLAC, CDD, INGO Forum, SERAP, NOPRIN, EiE.

Policy Areas

Civic Space, Fiscal Openness, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Expression, Human Rights, Justice, Legislation, Policing & Corrections, Public Participation, Tax

IRM Review

IRM Report: Nigeria Results Report 2019-2022, Nigeria Design Report 2019-2021

Early Results: No early results to report yet

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Yes

Ambition (see definition): High

Implementation i



Brief description:
This commitment will ensure that citizens and citizen organisations can inform and influence government policies and actions through their freedom to associate, assemble and express themselves freely thereby encouraging constant partnership between the public, private and third sector.

General problem:
Freedom of association, assembly and expression while moderate in Nigeria, citizens are beginning to witness increased attacks on journalists, bloggers, online influencers and human rights defenders who voice concern or report government failings or are against policies, failure to respect citizens’ rights to protests and assemblies and proposals on civil society regulatory frameworks/laws/regulations capable of creating barriers to independent and efficient operation of formal civil society organisations.

Specific OGP issue:
1. Low level of citizens voices in the policy making process.
2. Weak safeguards against undue arrest of citizens and non-state actors.
3. Weak citizens and civil society engagement in all levels of government decision-making.
4. Weak civil society-government relationship.

Rationale for the commitment:
Many of the OGP commitments will benefit from an open civic space for its success, for example opening government systems and processes, curbing corruption and illicit flows cannot be felt government-wide without active citizens, media and nonstate actors that can use data and information to hold governments accountable. Citizens cannot provide information to government on its policies and programmes where the fear of arrest, gagging and restrictions exists on their ability to speak freely and openly. The public cannot voice or discuss public interest issues freely when there are restrictions on their ability to assemble and or protest.

Main objective:
To ensure that citizens and citizen organisations can freely assemble, associate and express their opinions on government policies and programmes.

Anticipated impact:
Improved citizens participation and enabling the environment for advocacy, including working collectively towards open and responsive government, guaranteed protection of basic civil liberties such freedom of association, assembly and expression.

See action plan for milestone activities

IRM Midterm Status Summary

13. Improve civil society’s operational space

Main Objective

“To ensure that citizens and citizen organisations can freely assemble, associate and express their opinions on government policies and programmes.”


  1. Work with regulators such as CAC, FIRS and SCUML to register CSOs, especially those working on governance and rights issues, within a set time limit on clear grounds that are legitimate.
  2. Advocate for adequate safeguards against undue supervision of CSOs and the media such as random inspections and searches, ad-hoc demands for information, burdensome or invasive reporting requirements, etc.
  3. Establish strategy for the development of an effective CSO-Government relationship through the inclusion and timely release of a funding line in the national budget
  4. Work with FIRS to ensure that tax treatment and eligibility requirements of CSOs are clear in law and regulation to promote consistent and impartial tax treatment
  5. Work with the Nigerian Police and other security agencies to develop a guide on peaceful protests and assembly that is in line with international and ACPHR legal standards.

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Nigeria’s action plan at


Commitment Analysis

This commitment seeks to aid the realization of the right to free assembly, association, and expression. It includes five milestones to help CSOs register, include a national budget funding line for CSOs, and clarify tax treatment of CSOs. The commitment also plans to advocate for safeguards to protect CSOs against undue supervision, as well as develop a guide on peaceful protests in partnership with the police and security forces. This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of civic participation, as it aims to improve civil society’s operating environment.

If implemented as written, this commitment could have moderate potential impact on widening Nigeria’s civic space, which Civicus Monitor currently qualifies as “obstructed.” [152] The milestones on registration and funding could bring notable improvements to the status quo. The planned improvements in the CSO registration process could help bridge the CSO registration gap and reduce the administrative burden for registering an organization. The Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) and the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD) report bureaucratic challenges to CSO registration, including a time-consuming process and restrictions on organizational constitutions and names. [153] According to the 2018 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index, CSOs perceived to be critical of the government or perceived to pose security risks face registration difficulties. CSOs that fail to register are unable to access donor funds, [154] meaning that rectifying the registration process could also benefit CSO financing. Likewise, the intended clarification of CSO tax treatment could improve CSOs’ operations. According to the Nigeria Network of NGOs, Nigeria’s tax code is applied inconsistently to CSOs, with substantial discrepancies among states, [155] contributing to 53% of CSOs reporting a lack of comprehension of the taxation system and 67% of CSOs not paying taxes. [156] Nigeria does not offer tax deductions for donations to CSOs, [157] exacerbating limitations in local funding. [158]

The planned guidance on peaceful protest and use of minimal force could help facilitate dialogue on the realization of the right to assembly and clarify the police’s expected conduct. There is a need for reform in this sector given government obstruction of demonstrations against authorities. [159] However, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) expects limited impact given that the modus operandi of Nigerian Police and security agencies has remained relatively unaltered despite numerous previous training, legislative changes, and guidance documents. [160]

Additionally, the commitment does not directly address critical factors threatening freedom of assembly and expression, such as the Internet Falsehoods Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill and the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill. [161]

To ensure that this commitment can deliver tangible results for improving CSOs’ registration process, it will be important for the Human Right Commission to broker space for CSOs and the other relevant agencies to come to a mutual understanding on what a reasonable approach is to CSO registration and what specific changes need to be made by whom.

  • The IRM recommends focusing on ensuring buy-in from the responsible public institutions in implementing safeguards for protection of civic space and a favorable operating environment for CSOs. These include changes to the registration of CSOs, tax reform, and police reform.
  • In addition, the IRM recommends consideration of Nigerian civil society groups’ calls to withdraw the Internet Falsehoods Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill and the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill, as these bills pose threats to online civic space and freedom of expression.
  • To improve police accountability, NOPRIN recommends ensuring legitimate CSO representation in the Police Trust Fund, which supports police training, equipment purchases, and other police personnel matters.
[153] Oluseyi Babatunde Oyebisi (Nigeria Network of NGOs), interview with IRM, 6 July 2020; Uchenna Arisukwu (The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development), interview with IRM, 25 June 2020.
[154] “2018 Civil Society Organization. Sustainability Index. For sub-Saharan Africa. 10th edition – November 2019”, USAID, ICNL, FHI 360, in, p.170.
[155] Oluseyi Babatunde Oyebisi (Nigeria Network of NGOs), interview with IRM, 6 July 2020.
[156] Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA), Country Report: Nigeria, CIVICUS, April 2015, in P.44..
[157] Oluseyi Babatunde Oyebisi (Nigeria Network of NGOs), interview with IRM, 6 July 2020.
[158] “2018 Civil Society Organization. Sustainability Index. For sub-Saharan Africa. 10th edition – November 2019,” USAID, ICNL, FHI 360, in, p.172.
[159] “Laws on The Right of Peaceful Assembly. Nigeria,” Right of Assembly, in
[160] Ikule Emmanuel (The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria), interview with IRM, 9 July 2020.
[161] “Nigeria,” International Center for Not-For-Profit Law Civic Freedom Monitor, 5 April 2020,; Gabriel Ewepu, “CSO calls for withdrawal of bills threatening citizens’ rights to digital freedom, expression,” Vanguard, 28 June 2020,; “Nigeria”, ICNL, in

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 13. Improve civil society’s operational space

Verifiable: Yes

Does it have an open government lens? Yes

Potential Impact: Moderate

Completion: Limited

Did it open government? No early results to report yet

This commitment aimed to ensure that citizens and CSOs can more freely assemble, associate, and express their views. In response to the #EndSARS protests, Milestones 6 to 8 were added in 2021 to improve citizen-police relations. As a result of the limited implementation of this commitment, its activities have been carried over to Nigeria’s third OGP action plan.

The revised commitment aimed to repeal and replace the Police Service Commission Act (Milestone 6). In June 2020, President Buhari signed the 2020 Police Act, [207] which aims to strengthen accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights in policing. The Act strengthens police accountability in some regards and broadens police powers in others. Elements related to the Police Service Commission’s leadership and powers remain legally contested. [208] A representative of the Police Service Commission noted that the commission’s ability to carry out its oversight role remains limited because of a lack of civilian leadership and resources. [209]

Quarterly zonal police-citizen dialogues were not held as foreseen in the revised action plan (Milestone 7). However, on 22 September 2022, one month after the conclusion of the implementation period, the NOA and the Nigeria Network of Non-governmental Organizations (NNNGO) co-organized a citizen-police dialogue with the aim to collect citizens’ concerns on policing, strengthen police respect for citizen rights under the Police Act and other obligations, and identify next steps. There were 60 attendees representing government, civil society, and the police, including a representative on behalf of OGP Minister Prince Clem Agba, and virtual attendance of Director General of NOA Garba Abari. NNNGO noted that a memorandum of the outcomes of the meeting discussions would be forwarded to the relevant authorities for action. [210] The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Nigeria continued to conduct police station audits and produce reports on their status and remedial measures (Milestone 8). [211] IRM did not find evidence that NHRC developed a guide on peaceful protests and assembly (Milestone 5). [212] This activity has been carried over into the next action plan.

IRM found little evidence of progress on the remaining activities, which sought to simplify and clarify civil society regulations, particularly regarding CSOs’ registration and tax obligations. IRM did not find evidence that Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) or another government body provided CSO registration guidelines (Milestone 1). However, the British Council’s Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation (EU-ACT) has produced a guide for CSO registration in Nigeria. [213] IRM also did not find evidence on allocated budget or planning to develop a strategy for government-civil society collaboration (Milestone 3). Milestone 4, which was meant to ensure CSOs’ tax treatments were clear, consistent, and impartial was not specific. However, in 2020, FIRS published a pamphlet on NGOs’ tax obligations online. [214] In 2021, FIRS held a webinar in partnership with EU-ACT to clarify CSOs’ tax obligations. [215] Civil society maintains that tax requirements remain complicated and burdensome despite these efforts. [216]

Finally, NHRC committed to advocate for undue government supervision of CSOs and the media (Milestone 2). However, IRM did not find evidence of activities carried out by NHRC directly related to this milestone. An NHRC representative stated that many of the milestones were outside of the NHRC’s mandate. [217] The 2020 Companies and Allied Matters Act, while a significant milestone in corporate transparency and ease of doing business, has caused concern among civil society and religious groups. Civil society and religious organizations have raised concerns with Section 839, which gives CAC broad legal mandate to remove trustees and appoint interim managers if it is in the ‘public interest.’ [218] Over the course of the implementation period, CIVICUS’ civic space monitor downgraded Nigeria from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed.’ This rating indicates that civil society advocacy work is regularly impeded and that peaceful protests are likely to be subject to excessive force. [219] CSO Publish What Your Pay noted that civil society and media organizations working in oil-rich regions continue to face harassment from state and federal law enforcement. [220]

[207]Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette, 2020, “Nigeria Police Act 2020,” 21 September 2020,,%202020.pdf.
[208] Ifeoluwa Adediran, “Police Power: New Police Act, Same Officers,” Premium Times Nigeria, 19 December 2020,; Nigeria’s Police Service Commission Denies Backing IG’s Tenure Elongation,” Arise News, 24 January 2023,
[209] Report on the Police-Citizens’ Dialogue. Denis Hotel, Wuse II, Abuja. 22 September 2022. Document shared with the IRM by the National Orientation Agency.
[210] Report on the Police-Citizens’ Dialogue. Denis Hotel, Wuse II, Abuja. 22 September 2022. Document shared with the IRM by the National Orientation Agency.
[211] “Publications,” National Human Rights Commission website, accessed May 10, 2023,
[212] The National Human Rights Commission did not respond to an IRM request for an interview or a survey on the completion of activities under this commitment sent by email.
[213] Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation, Establishing the Legal Entity and Developing a Constitution in a CSO in Nigeria, accessed May 10, 2023,
[214] Federal Inland Revenue Service, “Tax Obligations of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs),” November 2020,
[215] Kabir Yusuf, “EU Partners FIRS to Sensitise CSOs on Tax Responsibilities, Compliance,” Premium TimesNigeria, 17 September 2021,
[216] Gabriel Ewepu, “CSOs React, Want FIRS to Reconsider Move on New Tax Drive,” Vanguard, 19 September 2021,; Michael Olugbode, ”EU-ACT, CAC Express Concern over Low Compliance by CSOs in Nigeria to Extant Laws,” This Day Live, 20 January 2023,
[217] Nigeria National Human Rights Commission. Email Response to IRM Survey. 9 March 2023.
[218] Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), “Analysing the Regulation of Non-Profits, Registered as Incorporated Trustees under ‘Part F’ of the New CAMA,” September 2020,
[219] “Nigeria,” CIVICUS country monitor website, accessed May 10, 2023,
[220] Otitolaye, interview.


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