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Release names of NGOs funded by foreign agents to ‘destabilize’ Nigeria, CSOs dare Lai Mohammed

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A coalition of Civil Society Organisations has dared the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, to release the names of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that are funded by foreign agents to “destabilize” the country.

The CSOs made the statement in response to the allegation by the Minister who claimed that some NGOs were sponsored by foreign agents “destabilize” Nigeria.

A joint statement signed by four CSOs — Enough is Enough, Media Rights Agenda, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), and Paradigm Initiative — described Mohammed’s claims as a “reckless attempt to incite Nigerians against NGOs and undermine their credibility.”

The statement titled, ‘Enough of the Harassment of SERAP and Other NGOs!’ read in part: “Last month, Mr. Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, in his usual manner, made the unfounded and false statement that some Nigerian NGOs “are working to destabilise Nigeria” – and went on to attack NGOs that had exercised their constitutional right to challenge the Nigerian government in a court of law over the Federal Government’s indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

“Nothing could be further from the truth than the minister’s wild claims and allegations. We reject the allegation that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and other NGOs that sued the Nigerian Government are working to destabilise Nigeria or against the country’s interest.

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“We challenge him to release the list of these NGOs, along with those that according to him, ‘not working for the interests of the people of the nation’ and proceed to prosecute them in accordance with Nigeria’s laws.

“We condemn the statement as a reckless attempt to incite Nigerians against NGOs and undermine their credibility.

“We wish to state that the opposite is actually true – it is Nigerian NGOs that are striving to save Nigeria from being destabilised in the face of relentless efforts by Mr Mohammed and others like him in the government who are afraid of freedom of expression and other fundamental rights that should be enjoyed by all citizens of a democratic country.

“He could not be more wrong! In a constitutional democracy, citizens have a right and indeed a responsibility, either individually or in groups, to criticise their government and to insist that the government respects their fundamental rights and freedoms, within the laws of the land.”

The CSOs added: “We remain convinced that the Government’s action was illegal and unwarranted. It was further evidence of the commitment of President Buhari’s administration to close civic spaces and clamp down on the rights of citizens.

“While the cases are at various stages of the legal process at the Federal High Court and the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court, we remain committed to our work of upholding democracy – including the fundamental right to freedom of speech – in Nigeria.”

 

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