The European Union and the British Council have trained about 40 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Rivers State on compliance requirements on regulatory frameworks to make them more efficient in monitoring ills in society.
Lead Facilitator of the training, Prof Adedeji Adekunle, said the training would make CSOs good corporate citizens, better equipped to comply with the law, thereby positioning them to challenge wrongs in the society.
Adekunle, who is a professor of law, stated this at the weekend in Port Harcourt, during a two-day training for CSOs, stressing that if the CSOs were not strong in complying with the law, it would be difficult for them to challenge misdeeds in the society and correct them.
He said: “If the organisations are better equipped to comply with the law, it makes them more efficient in monitoring ills in the society. A fully compliant CSO can stand tall and challenge wrong things.”
Adekunle reiterated that the training would bolster the courage of CSOs and enhance their operations.
He added: “The Nigerian state will get better, the job of regulators, like the Pension Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Corporate Affairs Commission, will become easier and I expect a stronger cooperation between the CSOs and the regulators, which, I believe, will rob more positively in the country because it will help to tackle corruption also.”
Also speaking, the Component 2 Manager of the European Union Agent for Citizens-driven Transformation (EU-ACT), Idem Udoekong, said it was expedient to be on the good side of the law, be accountable to tackle corruption.
He said: “A situation where the CSOs are not following the law, some persons can take advantage and abuse the law too, that’s why we decided to train them to become compliant to existing civil society regulations.”
He attributed poor compliance among CSOs to a lack of requisite knowledge and information about regulations and provisions of tax law and how to go about it.
He maintained that compliance with the regulatory framework was key to sustaining and strengthening civil society organisations.
EU-ACT had earlier stressed the issue of poor compliance of CSOs on regulatory framework, attributing this to a lack of the requisite knowledge and information on regulations.
This was stated at a two-day training for CSOs Regulatory Framework and Compliance held in Abuja, by the British Council National Technical Committee on Civil Society Self Regulation on Monday.
This assertion was reinforced by the outcome of a survey conducted by the 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, Lagos, Sokoto, Kano, Rivers, Edo, Adamawa, Enugu, Plateau and Borno States.
According to EU-ACT, the survey findings indicated that out of the 119 CSOs’ responses that were processed, less than a third of the CSOs were compliant with the Company Allied Matters Act, less than 10% of the CSOs were fully tax compliant and only 14% of the CSOs were SCUML compliant.
Udoekong noted that compliance with the regulatory framework is Paramount to sustaining and strengthening CSOs and keeping them out of trouble.
“This helps to sustain the organisation as if you do not comply with the law, it may create room for abuse of the system. So regulations help credibility in the 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 be relevant.
“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 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 state’s networks,” he said.
On his part, Prof. Adedeji Adekunle in his address reiterated that compliance with regulation is knowledge-driven, as sometimes organisations do not know what to do per time and people are scared of meeting regulations which sometimes indicates they have something to hide.
“These regulations if not adhered to have penalties as these documents and resolutions are not on paper. It looks fishy as this also helps the government to know the organisation is still in practice and not extinct.
On his part, Terver Ayuda, Special Assistant Registrar General Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), stated the need to deepen the knowledge on compliance and how it will benefit the regulator and those who are regulated.
While noting that, so far the compliance level is encouraging even though cannot be rated in percentage but more education needs to be done.
“Some of these CSOs are not shying from compliance but sometimes they have issues on how best it can be achieved so the office of the CAC I’d here to throw more light on how it can be done seamlessly. Registration is 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 the African Centre for Entrepreneurship Information and Development, said the CSOs complement activities of the government, and over-regulation of the space will be shutting the door to more people engaging in Civil activities.
According to him “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 people to engage, not to create stringent laws like these as these laws are shrinking the CSO’s space, these laws most times do not work positively. They are over-regulating the activities of the CSOs,” he said.