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NO fewer than 300 briefcase non-governmental organisations have been activated since 2015 when President Muhammadu took office in 2015, ostensibly to launder the image of the then new administration.

Many of the fake NGOs are controlled by individuals with connections to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a report published today by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an American think-tank, has revealed.

The list includes Coalition of Buhari Friends and Supporters, Network of Friends and Supporters of
Buhari, Buhari Youth Organization, Defence of National Security, Coalition of Concerned Nigerian Students and others.

The report titled Fake Civil Society: The Rise of Pro-Government NGOs in Nigeria is authored by Mathew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Chatham House, United Kingdom.

Mr. Page is also a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

According to the report, the job description of many of the pro-government NGOs is to praise the Buhari administration to the high heaven and defend the Nigerian government from criticism at home and abroad, deflecting allegations of corruption, underperformance, and human rights abuses.

And to keep the Buhari administration out of the picture, the pro-government NGOs are funded secretly through off-budget payments or contracts for consulting services, the report disclosed.

To date, a total of 360 state-sponsored organisations were identified in the report, and the majority of them exist in name only. In fact, fewer than 7 per cent are listed on Corporate Affairs Commission as legally required while many operate for only a short time before closing shop with barely one or two press conferences held for their entire life span.

“Many pro-government NGOs thrive on the coverage they receive from a few little-known media platforms, some of which are run by their leaders or their allies. Mimicking legitimate civil society groups, pro-government NGOs often cite the work of supposed think tanks that validate their pro-government or illiberal views,” the report stated.

Mr. Page in a WhatsApp conversation with The ICIR said it was difficult to link any of the Fake NGOs with prominent politicians because” powerful officials mainly deal with these entities via their SAs (Senior Assistants), much like they do with favoured journalists.”

He was also unable to identify public contracts executed by any of the Fake NGOs because the “information is difficult to come by without using more investigative tactics.”

Nevertheless, the report identified operators of fake NGOs such as Philip Agbese, a politician associated with 40 pro-government NGOs; Princess Bosede Ajibola, an aggressive defender of the military and service chiefs on social media; Ibrahim Kabiru Dallah, a propaganda warrior who runs Coalition Against Fake and Ali Abach, the younger brother of former dictator Sani Abacha, inked to not fewer than five such groups, the Northern Patriotic Front (NPF).

To tackle the menace of fake civil society groups in Nigeria, the report recommends that government should ensure that all NGOs are registered with the CAC, identify a board of trustees, and submit annual financial reports to the commission.

Anti-corruption agencies are also charged to investigate briefcase NGOsregarding their sources of funding, tax compliance, and relationships with politically exposed persons.

Stakeholders in Nigeria’s democratic project are urged to call out pro-government groups’ toxic behaviours and exert pressure on their high-level sponsors, and the local media organisations are encouraged to report the civil society sector more critically.

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