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Checklist Of Regulatory Approvals To Operate As An International Humanitarian Organisation In Nigeria

With a demography of over 2,100,000 Internally Displaced Persons and 304,562 Refugees currently grappling Nigeria, the need for humanitarian aid is at an all-time high and despite the significant number of humanitarian organisations operating in Nigeria, there is still a dire need for more support. 

Notwithstanding the overwhelming requirement for the alleviation of the suffering of internally displaced persons and refugees, especially in North-east Nigeria, non-profit organisations (other than agencies of foreign governments or international organisations such as the UNICEF or the ICRC) are still required to comply with local regulatory requirements to seamlessly operate and deliver humanitarian assistance without interruption from the regulators. 

In commemoration of this year’s World Humanitarian Day, let’s take a quick note of the checklist of some of these local regulatory requirements.

  1. Incorporation with the Corporate Affairs Commission: To be recognised as legal entities, with legal capacity to contract, sue or be sued under Nigerian law, humanitarian organisations are required by law to be incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission (the ‘CAC’) either as a Company Limited by Guarantee under Part B or as an organisation with Incorporated Trustees under Part F of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020. Upon completion of the process, the CAC issues a Certificate of Incorporation and other ancillary documents as evidence of incorporation. Successful completion of this registration process cloaks the organisation with legal capacity and authority to transact business and operate as a distinct legal entity. 

  2. Registration with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning: The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (‘MFBNP’) is charged with the responsibility of coordinating relations with and monitoring the activities of international organisations and non-profits in Nigeria. For an international non-profit to be officially recognised by the Federal Government of Nigeria and be granted certain tax and immigrations privileges – which are ordinarily not available to other entities, it must process its registration with the MFBNP. This registration  culminates in the signing of a Cooperation Agreement between the organisation and the Federal Government of Nigeria. However, because the registration is a long drawn-out process which can take between 6 (six) months to 2 (two) years, the MFBNP issues Temporary Registration documentation to non-profits that have satisfied preliminary requirements to enable them deliver critical aid which the country is so much in need of, pending the completion of the process. 

  3. Federal Inland Revenue Service: Under Nigerian law, every legal entity is required to obtain a Tax Identification Number (‘TIN’) from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (“FIRS”), without which it will be unable to open or operate a local bank account, remit taxes or obtain tax clearance certificates. Under the new tax regime recently deployed by the FIRS, non-profits cannot obtain a TIN without evidence of incorporation with the CAC. 

  4. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission: Given that insurgency is the major factor that underpins the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, the Federal Government monitors the compliance of non-profit organisations with existing anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Accordingly, non-profits are required to register with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML), a unit of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is important to note that a non-profit will not be allowed to operate a bank account in Nigeria until it presents evidence of registration with the EFCC. Also, evidence of incorporation at the CAC is one of the requirements for registration with the SCUML.

  5. Borno State Agency for Coordination of Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Response: This Agency was established by the Borno State Government in 2019 to monitor and regulate the activities of non-profit organisations operating within the State. Therefore, all non-profits operating or seeking to operate in Borno State are required to obtain an operating licence from this Agency, failing which they risk the suspension of their operations, albeit, within Borno State only.

Happy Humanitarian Day from all of us at Matrix-Solicitors

Note that the information provided in this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

For Further Information, contact:

Terstea Joo

Terstea Joo

Adekunmi Moses

Adekunmi Moses