WACSI commends Nigerian civil society for the major win on new anti-money laundering law

WACSI commends Nigerian civil society for the major win on new anti-money laundering law

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[Accra – 30 May 2022] The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) joins several civil society organisations in West Africa to commend progress made by Nigeria in the protection of civil society organisations (CSOs) from obnoxious restrictive anti-money laundering laws and creating an enabling environment for civic freedoms and civil society operations.

President Muhammadu Buhari, on 12 May 2022, signed into law, three bills: the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022, the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022, and the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Bill, 2022. The new  anti-money laundering law, following amendments of earlier versions of the bill, effectively removed nonprofit organisations from its definition of designated non-financial institutions (DNFIs), following years of advocacy and constructive engagement with policymakers and technical agencies responsible for implementing anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing (AML-CTF) regimes including those led by colleagues at Spaces for Change. This represents an important win for civil society’s fight to protect civic space and, “…demonstrates the country’s ability to focus on its state-building priorities and is an opportunity to improve civic space”, as noted by the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGOs) Executive Director, Oluseyi Oyebisi.

WACSI’s Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit, Omolara Balogun, rightly underscored that, “despite the enormous task ahead, we have to ensure that AML-CTF laws are not used as a pretext to further constrain civic space. While it is important to celebrate efforts and progress made by colleagues and Nigerian authorities, the agenda must be sustained through evidence-based advocacy and continous engagement of civil society in the formulation of an inclusive and effective AML-CTF regime that does not jeopardize the ability of CSOs to deliver on their mandates.” She noted further that “Nigeria’s example is worthy of emulation by other governments in the region that have predominantly introduced or passed restrictive AML-CTF laws or NGO laws with little-to-no engagement with CSOs.”

Nigeria should inspire other West African states 

While Nigeria’s progress is commendable, it is important to highlight that the general outlook across the region as far as the formulation and implementation on laws relating AML-CTF and NPO regulations is concerned is worrying. Governments continue to pass controversial laws which are deemed a threat to civic space and civil society operations, and ultimately the third sector’s contributions to development and progress of the region. The CIVICUS People Power Under Attack 2020 report downgraded four West African nations Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Togo and Niger from obstructed to repressed due to deterioration of civic freedoms. In 2021, Mali, a formerly thriving democracy, joined the league of repressed, according to the CIVICUS Monitor.

To take Niger as a case in point, despite the important role CSOs have played in multi-party governance, and towards rule of law, democracy, and judicial independence in the country, civil society has come under increasing threat over the past decade. Government legislations including the 2018 Finance Law, cyber security law, and most recently the 24 February 2022 decree by President Mohamed Bazoum supplementing the 1984 ordinance on the regime for associations, are a direct affront to civil society operations and rights and freedoms of citizens.

The adoption of the 24 February decree represents a major setback as far as civic space and freedoms are concerned. It effectively constrains civil society in the exercise of its mandate by giving authority to Nigerien authorities the power to maintain a system of prior approval of civil society activities (Article 4 “the exercise of the activities of NGOs/DAs is subject to prior authorization or approval by the Minister of the Interior”). Among many others, the decree is also seen as restrictive in that it jeopardizes associational freedoms by giving total control of CSO activities to Nigerian authorities. The decree poses several impediments to civil society operations. It places an overwhelming bureaucratic toll on civil societies to register as legal entities, renew their licenses, and/or carry out activities (Articles 4, 5, 8, 37 and 39), obtain funding (Article 34), activity plans and projects (Articles 40, 41 and 44), as well as the use their assets (Article 27). What is even terrifying is the fact that the decree makes it clear that civil society projects or activities must be aligned with the national development agenda and priorities, and any organisation which acts the contrary risks losing license to operate.

For a country that has already seen several downgrades in its civic freedoms over the years, including multiple arrests of activists and journalists, prohibition of peaceful protests, and the adoption of repressive laws, any further restrictions on civil society as this new decree poses represents danger signs as far democracy, freedoms, and development are concerned, as well as offers a fertile ground for the incubation of discontents – vulnerabilities that violent extremist organisations  could exploit and further shrink civic space and democracy in the country and across the Sahel.

Nigeria sets a good example, and it is important that other West African neighbors including Niger emulate. Civil society collaborative efforts and the subsequent win in Nigeria should also serve as an inspiration to others across the region which day-after-day continue to advocate and engage stakeholders for inclusive and effective AML/CTF regimes and compliance on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.


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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.