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20 Nigerian CSOs Equipped to Reclaim the Country’s ‘Repressed’ Civic Space

[Abuja, 4 March 2024]- “It was such an impactful and enlightening experience. From compliance to freedom of speech, we thoroughly explored critical issues relevant to our work. I am grateful to have been part of this training,” remarked Osariemen Grace Omoruyi, Founder of Restorative Justice for Africa, Nigeria.

Omoruyi is one of the 20 civil society leaders who represented their organisations at the first in-person training for the second Nigerian cohort of the West Africa Civic Space Resource Hub (CSR-Hub) held in Abuja from 26 February – 1 March 2024.

Nigeria’s prominence in civil society contributions across West Africa was underscored by a recent study conducted by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI).

Launched in November 2023, the report titled “Contribution of CSOs to the Economic, Social, and Political Development of West Africa” hailed Nigerian civil society organisations (CSOs) for their pivotal role in driving job creation, policy influencing, and poverty reduction initiatives throughout the region.

However, despite their invaluable contributions, Nigerian civic actors face a myriad of challenges. From pressures by both state and non-state actors to unlawful attacks, and the stifling effect of draconian laws on their freedoms, the civic space in which they operate is severely restricted. The classification of Nigeria’s civic space as “Repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor in 2023 emphasises the uphill battle confronting these actors.

In response to these challenges, CSR-Hub has taken proactive measures to enhance the capacities of Nigerian CSOs. By empowering them to overcome restrictions imposed on both digital and physical civic spaces, CSR-Hub aims to enable these organisations to effectively pursue their mandates.

The training thus is one of a nine-month series of capacity strengthening initiatives outlined for the 20 CSOs who constitute the second Nigerian cohort of the Hub.

In an address to officially open the five-day training, Omolara Balogun, Head, Policy Influencing and Advocacy at WACSI, stressed the urgent need for interventions to safeguard the shrinking Nigerian civic space.

“Civic space is shrinking really fast, and there is a need for us to act now,” she noted.

Oyebisi Babatunde, Executive Director of the Nigerian Network of NGOs (NNNGOs), who facilitated the session, emphasised the importance of regulatory compliance and implored the organisations to prioritise it.

“Before you can criticise the actions of others, it’s important to put your house in order,” he said.

The workshop parked a heightened interest among participants in regulatory compliance and anti-money laundering issues.

Through case studies, practical sessions, and role plays, participants gained essential skills and strategies to navigate the challenging landscape.

“After returning, I plan to share the valuable lessons from this training with my colleagues during our Monday meetings to ensure our organisation is fully compliant with all necessary regulations,” remarked Victor Eboh, Senior Advisor at Lawyers Alert, Nigeria.

Ngweshie Augustine, Executive Director of the Center for Peace Advocacy and Sustainable Development Nigeria, shared his intentions upon identifying several gaps in their organisation’s regulatory compliance during the training.

“I will immediately convene a meeting with our board members to strategise ways of addressing these gaps,” Augustine affirmed.

Other members of the cohort who participated in the training included the IREDE Foundation, the Muslim Peace Network (MPN), YouthHubAfrica, and the Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy & Development.

Alongside these, other notable participants included Hope Behind Bars Africa, the Novel Alliance for Development Aid (NADA), the Development Communications Network, the International Centre for Peace Charities and Human Development, and the Justice, Development, and Peace Commission in Ibadan.

Furthermore, the cohort the Centre for Development Support Initiatives (CEDSI Nigeria), Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, the Center for Advocacy Transparency and Accountability Initiative, the ElectHER Development Initiative, and the International Press Centre in Nigeria.

Notably, prominent entities like Media Rights Agenda, Global Rights, the World Impact Development Foundation (WIDEF) were also part of this gathering, contributing to its diversity and enriching the workshop.

The 20 participants who represented the organisations join a larger pool of 154 others from Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria who have also received training under this initiative.

CSR-Hub is a component of the broader Weaving Resilience programme, an $80 million initiative funded by the Ford Foundation. Developed in collaboration with partners across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Weaving Resilience seeks to fortify and interconnect CSOs and movements at the forefront of the global struggle for social justice.

Co-implemented by WACSI and Spaces for Change, Nigeria, the Hub is a capacity building platform for CSOs pushing back restrictions to open civic space, enabling environment, civil liberties, and open society in West Africa.

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