Preamble: Caritas Nigeria and JDPC are organs of relief and development of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. They are located within 56 ecclesiastical jurisdictions that are coterminous with the geographical entity called Nigeria, with a national office in Abuja. Caritas Nigeria and JDPC serve the needy irrespective of religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.
A Reign of Terror:Caritas Nigeria and JDPC are shocked that human life is gradually becoming a statistic of deaths in Nigeria. Whether it is the death of a Boko Haram terrorist or the death of an innocent farmer or community member hacked down by a herdsman or the death of a herdsmanas a result of reprisal attacks or aggression, Nigeria is fast becoming a violent desert with cesspools of blood as oases scattered in the North East, North Central, South East, South South and South West. In the name of our common humanity and in the name of the God we all serve, THIS MUST STOP! Life is a precious gift of God and we must be careful to not raise a generation that gets used to devaluing human life and sees violent death as a regular feature of life.
Failed State:Whatever the root causes of this violence a more fundamental cause is the security architecturewhich is susceptible to defeat by groups and individuals who have now become shareholders of the instruments of violence, as the state has virtually lost its monopoly and weakened its capacity. Nigeria must stop playing politics with security of lives and property and adopt strategies that would facilitate the well being of all and not just a few powerful individuals or groups with capacity to capture theimmunity to kill and immunity from arrest and prosecution whether as kidnappers, herdsmen, terrorists or militants.
Culture is Dynamic: We cannot keep insisting that a particular way of life must be upheld just because it is the culture of the people, even when the nuisance value keeps multiplying. Culture is dynamic not static. After all are not herding cattle all over the place. We must be careful to not condemn the poor to their predicament just because they are not aware that they have better options. Justice demands that even if one is not aware of his rights and privileges he should be assisted to acquire them. However Nigerians must not degenerate to a state where we stigmatize a certain people and refuse to open our arms in welcome even when they mean no harm to us. Caritas Nigeria/JDPC believe that Nigerian communities, without the interference of politicians, have resilient measures that make for mutual respect and conflict prevention and mitigation. Politicians and social media activists should avoid sowing seeds of discord that would give rise to a violent transition come 2019.
States that have accepted to establish multiple ranches or colonies should therefore accelerate the implementation so that nomadic herdsmen could have places where they would breed their herd. We advise government to grant loans to private enterprises or to the various state governments who want to establish these multiple ranches and put measures in place where it is transparent to everyone that these monies would be recovered from the taxes and charges.
Devolution of more powers to the states will ensure that internal migrants who are welcome to local communities do not usurp local chieftaincies, even if they turn out to be in the majority. The national Assembly could promote legislation that guarantees the chieftaincies of local populations against the usurpation of migrants. However political representation could be open to all.
Compensation: Also the Federal Government should establish a Compensation Fund for families of victims who die in these conflicts.
Voter Registration: Caritas Nigeria/JDPC use this medium to also appeal to INEC to do something to overcome the suspicion that voter registration is deliberately made difficult for people in some parts of the country while it is facilitated and fast tracked even for under-aged in some other parts. While there will be unavoidable logistical issues, INEC must not give room to be seen as partisan.
A Note of Caution: As Nigerians, we must be conscious of the horrendous experiences of other nations and learn our lessons: the one million people killed in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the Central Africa Republic civil war between 2012 and 2014 whose effects are still lingering, and now the Cameroun political crisis. We are yet to recover from the Boko Haram terrorism which is still raging. Government must put aside all sentiments and deal with the herdsmen issue.
Fr. Evaristus Bassey
Caritas Nigeria response to food security in the Sahel Region supported 991 households comprising of 9,798 persons in selected communities in Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and Jigawa states, financially through unconditional cash transfers to improve their livelihoods, and they also received hygiene and sanitation education.
The goal of the food security project was to “enhance access to food in the Sahel region in Northern Nigeria at the height of the Sahelian food crisis.” The project was targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable households such as households with large numbers of children and households headed by widows and disabled or aged persons.
The project strategies included an initial cash transfer pilot (in one community in Sokoto State) was done in 2012 with support from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Caritas subsequently received independent funding from Caritas Internationalis to implement a one-year cash transfer and food voucher program in seven communities in Zamfara, Katsina and Jigawa States, in collaboration with the local Caritas.
Caritas Nigeria worked with the Justice Development and Peace/Caritas (JDPC) Desk Officers, to directly provide support to the target beneficiaries. Caritas Nigeria also collaborated with other Civil Society Organizations like the Federation Of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN) and Jumaat Nasir Islam (JNI) to provide adequate support in the target communities.
The project was supported by Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Internationalis and ran from May 2012 – July 2013.
PRESS RELEASE: CARITAS NIGERIA AND JDPC’S RESPONSE TO THE OUTCRY AGAINST THE NGO BILL
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC are organs of relief and development on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and are registered as Incorporated Trustees under the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria.
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC observe that most Catholic Dioceses and Archdioceses and Christian Churches that are registered in Nigeria under the CAC are registered as Incorporated Trustees and therefore fall under the NGO categorization; therefore unless a separate categorization is established for religious organisations, by law they are seen as incorporated Trustees and therefore as NGOs.
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC have refrained from making any public statements hitherto because in the spirit of collaboration, we have been working with the House Committee on NGOs and Development Partners, to come up with a legal framework that was mutually acceptable. Caritas Nigeria and JDPC have attended public hearings in the past on similar bills on the control NGOs, which did not see the light of the day as Acts of Parliament.
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC are now constrained to make public its position based on the groundswell of public opinion and condemnations that have greeted the new NGO bill as presented by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
We would like to state as follows:
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC have raised issues during interactive sessions with the Hon. Speaker organized by Situation Room on why there have been not less than eight attempts on the floor of the House to control NGOs instead of providing public financial support to NGOs as is done in many nations of the world. To this end Caritas Nigeria and JDPC and other NGOs would only accept an NGO Bill that would guarantee public financial support especially to humanitarian NGOs without compromising the independence of the NGOs.
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC appreciate the need for members of the House to be acknowledged by their constituencies as having put forward a bill for consideration. However this should not be at the expense of the reputation of the entire House; presently the National Assembly is perceived as a cesspool of corruption, and such bills that seem to put the House on a face-off with citizens only portray the House as intent on protecting a ‘Lootocracy’ that should not be questioned, hence the intent on muzzling NGOs. This bill is not in the interest of the House itself.
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC advise more collaboration between House Committees and the leadership; for as the majority leader, Hon. Umar Jubril should have been aware of efforts between the House Committee on NGOs and Development Partners and CSOs, including Caritas Nigeria and JDPC. Hon. Jubril’s disruptive effort is highly suspicious, especially against the backdrop of such security threats as the herdsmen attacks which are being seen as part of a sinister agenda of domination. Knowing fully well that his religion demands him to use his position to promote and protect religion, is this Hon. Umar’s subtle way of promoting and protecting his religion by setting up a framework in which others might be persecuted ?
We would advise that in the light of all the deep concerns expressed by well meaning citizens, the National Assembly dropped all attempts to legislate on NGOs and allow NGOs originate such legislation themselves as private member’s bill.
It should be noted that, while we may have a few bad eggs among the NGOs, the main concern of all arms of government should be how to change the perception of Nigerians about government as ineffective, corrupt, wasteful and lacking of vision. Now that Hon. Umar Jubil has made a name for himself, he should withdraw the bill and stop adding fuel to an already heated polity. The bill should not move further than it has reached already.
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC urge all NGOs that employ staff to collect and remit PAYE of their staff to their various States Revenue services, make the mandatory annual returns to Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS) after their annual audits, and get the SCUML certification from EFCC as required, especially if they receive foreign funding, as we believe rightly that there are already enough regulatory frameworks on ground to make superfluous any self-seeking piece of legislation.
Fr. Evaristus Bassey
Caritas Nigeria and JDPC