Public forum addresses increasing regulation of civil society in Nigeria
Spaces for Change (S4C) held a public forum in February on Citizenship, Civic Spaces and Civil Society in Abuja, Nigeria. The forum aimed to gather inputs from civil society and non-profit representatives in response to increased government surveillance and restrictions on civil society and non-profit organizations.
Last year, civil society in Nigeria effectively fought and stopped legislation aiming to regulate the use of social media in communications. This bill was followed by a new legislative proposal known as the NGO Bill, which would allow the Nigerian government to regulate, monitor and interfere with the funding and operation of non-governmental organizations. Lawmakers have invoked national interest and national security as a justification for these new measures aimed at regulating civil society.
The outcomes of the forum are summarized in S4C’s report. Analyzing both offline and online spaces, the discussions at the forum centered around the effects of shrinking civic space on the media, Indigenous communities, religious groups, and civil society actors.
Attendees of the forum included organizations representing indigenous peoples, religious groups, local and international non-governmental organizations, the media, representatives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and activists previously incarcerated and prosecuted in Nigeria for their advocacy actions. The forum’s hashtag #ClosingSpaces trended on Twitter during the event.