How should NGOs or Not for profit organizations be regulated or governed? Are there internal structures resilient enough to forestall fraud or breaches of trust? What’s the interest of the State in the governance of these organizations and what regulatory model is apt? These questions were the focus of a recent forum on the Governance structure of Not-For-Profit Organisations organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and the MacArthur Foundation on the 26th of October 2017 at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua centre Abuja.
In his keynote Joshua Mintz Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of the MacArthur Foundation outlined the legal and institutional framework in the United States as well as universal best practices. While recognizing peculiar local factors Mr Mintz pointed out that while a degree of self regulation is desirable it would still be necessary to have a body of codes and guidelines on issues of conflict of interest, scope of activities and financial records. Oversight of these standards is shared in the US by the IRS and a Council for Not For Profit Organizations which is a self regulatory body.
Speaking further the Director General of NIALS Prof Adekunle SAN advised that it is imperative that NGO’s should operate within a frame work of governance – a frame work that eschews corruption, promotes transparency and ensures that there is focus on projects goals. The appropriateness of the Non Government Organisation Regulatory Commission of Nigeria (Establishment etc,) Bill 2016 (HB 585) – a private members Bill introduced in the House of Representatives of the Nigerian Legislature was also discussed. The predominant view was against the setting up of a commission to regulate NGOs in view of the existing powers of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) under Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). It was argued that the terms of the bill usurp the regulatory powers of the CAC and also lead to duplicity of Extra ministerial Departments or parastatals.
Other speakers expressed the fears of politicising and stifling the freedom of the Media, civil society, and the Unions if NGO’s are controlled by government institution. Other suggestions raised at the seminar includes strengthening the CAC to regulate the organisations in a way that does not lose Sight of the NGO’s coming up with self-regulatory governance structure. As well as setting up parameters in place for interventionist/ donors. Some of the legal experts at the seminar are Prof Yemi Akinsheye George SAN, The Director of the Center for Socio-Legal Studies. Dr. Kole Shetima, Regional Director of the MacArthur Foundation, Prof Peter Akper SAN Director of Research, NIALS and representatives of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Corporate Affairs Commission law firms and the NBA.
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