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 AreasCivic Space, Defending Journalists and Activists, Fiscal Openness, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Association, Human Rights, Justice, Legislation & Regulation, Policing & Corrections, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery, Tax
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.
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.
To ensure that citizens and citizen organisations can freely assemble, associate and express their opinions on government policies and programmes.
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
“To ensure that citizens and citizen organisations can freely assemble, associate and express their opinions on government policies and programmes.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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 https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/nigeria-action-plan-2019-2021/
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.”  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.  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,  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,  contributing to 53% of CSOs reporting a lack of comprehension of the taxation system and 67% of CSOs not paying taxes.  Nigeria does not offer tax deductions for donations to CSOs,  exacerbating limitations in local funding. 
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.  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. 
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. 
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.
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Legal Instrument to Strengthen SERVICOM
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World Bank Doing Business Index
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FOIA Compliance for Annual Reporting
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FOIA Compliance for Disclosure
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Technology-Based Citizens' Feedback
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