The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has continued its campaign against the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 and asked President Muhammadu Buhari to issue directives to suspend its implementation.
It would be recalled that the president signed the CAMA into law on August 7th 2020.
While the Act has received commendations from the business community, as it is said to facilitate the ease of doing business in the country, CAN as well as non-governmental organisations and human rights groups have opposed some sections of the law, particularly section 839.
The organisations are seeking an amendment to the provisions made in sections 839 (1) & (2) of the law, which empowers the Corporate Affairs Commission CAC) to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church).
Section 839 (1) empowers the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to suspend trustees of an association and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association where it reasonably believes that- a) there is or has been misconduct, mismanagement in the administration of the association.”
b) it is necessary or desirable for the purpose of 1) protecting the property of the association 2) securing a proper application for the property of the association towards achieving the objects of the association, the purpose of the association of that property or of the property coming to the association, 3) public interest; or 4) the affairs of the association are being run fraudulently.
Subsection 2 provides that “The trustees shall be suspended by an order of Court upon the petition of the Commission or Members consisting of one-fifth of the association, and the petitioners shall present all reasonable evidence or such evidence as requested by the Court in respect of the petition.”
Subsection 3 provides for the hearing of the petition and the appointment of the Interim managers by the court with the assistance of the Commission.
The Interim managers are designated by the Court or the appointment of any person who cannot do as otherwise instructed without the approval of the Court.
Reacting to the section, CAN in a statement issued on August 20 described the ACT as “unacceptable”, “ungodly” and “reprehensible” and called on Buhari to return the law to the national assembly for amendment.
It urged the president to halt the implementation of the law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.
“In Nigeria, people’s religions are tied to their humanity and of course, their life adding that the satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law is Section 839 (1) & (2) which empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint the interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons.”
“The church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations. We recall that during the first term of the president, there was a public hearing conducted by the national assembly on the Non- Governmental Organisations Bill tagged ‘Bill for an Act to Provide for the Establishment of the Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Co-ordination and Monitoring of Non Governmental Organisations’ which was attended by CAN and many NGOs.”
“At the Public Hearing, the Bill that sought to bring the religious organizations and NGOs under the control and influence of the government was totally rejected because it would snuff life out of the church and rank the church as a secular institution under secular control. We thought it was all over until we heard of the CAMA that was assented to by the President, making the rejected bill a law.
“How can the government sack the trustee of a church which it contributed no dime to establish? How can a secular and political minister be the final authority on the affairs and management of another institution which is not political? For example, how can a non-Christian head of Government Ministry be the one to determine the running of the church?
“It is an invitation to trouble that the government does not have power to manage. Let the government face the business of providing infrastructure for the people. Let them focus on better health provision, food, education, adequate security employment, etc. The government should not be a busy body in a matter that does not belong to it. The government does not have the technical expertise to run the church of God because of its spiritual nature,” said CAN in a statement issued by the special assistant to CAN president, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji.
Yesterday, CAN stepped up its opposition to CAMA 2020 by submitting a position paper to President Buhari at a ceremony in Abuja demanding the suspension of implementation of the law.
In a letter signed by CAN President, Rev Samson Ayokunle, the association said it was yet to be availed with the authentic version of the voluminous Act, made up of 870 sections besides the sundry and complex schedules and addendum.
The association said CAMA 2020 “has the potential that can further undermine the faith of stakeholders in the Nigerian-state.”
The letter which was delivered by a former Chaplain of Aso Villa Chapel and General Overseer of All Christians Fellowship Mission, Maitama, Rev. William Okoye reads: “We respectfully acknowledge the invitation extended to us to make an input into the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 following the myriad of objections that attended the enactment of the Act.
“While we sincerely appreciate the courtesy of your invitation, we are, however, constrained from doing so on the following grounds:
“We are yet to be availed with the authentic version of the voluminous Act, made up of 870 sections besides the sundry and complex schedules and addendum.
“Furthermore, we are mindful that comments in public domain are beginning to indicate that CAMA, 2020 has the potential that can further undermine the faith of stakeholders in the Nigerian-state. The reactions from public officeholders have not helped matters because they are binary in perspective and pander towards a fait accompli.
“The dominant schools of thought in the public domain, hold the view that should stakeholders of the Nigerian-state seek judicial intervention or amendment of the Act by the National Assembly, they shall achieve nothing much, as they consider such, as exercises in futility.
“Mr. President, from the foregoing, we are of the opinion that you should kindly issue the appropriate directives to suspend the implementation of CAMA 2020 and affirm a thorough reappraisal of the legislation that is in correlation with the provisions of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended), other extant legal and policy frameworks, the national economy, national security, national interest and the wellbeing of the Nigerian-state.
“In order to participate actively in such an exercise, you may wish to kindly furnish us with an official version as assented by you. This will enable us do the due diligence required, please.”
CAN’s director of legal affairs, Mrs. Comfort Chigbue, who read out the position of the association said it expected Buhari to “kindly issue the appropriate directives to suspend the implementation of CAMA 2020 and affirm a thorough reappraisal of the legislation that is in correlation with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), other extant legal and policy frameworks, the national economy, national security, national interest and the wellbeing of the Nigerian state.”
Responding, the special assistant to the president on Niger Delta Affair, Mr. Ita Enang, who received CAN’s petition on behalf of the Buhari allayed fears that the law was targeted at Christianity, Islam or any other religious organisation.
He contended that sections of the Act being disputed by religious bodies, especially Christians, were not new and had been in the 1990 version of the CAMA which was recently amended.
Particularly, he pointed out that Section 590 of CAMA 1990 and Section 823 (1) of CAMA 2020 contain similar provisions except for emphasis on the number of trustees to be appointed for an organisation.
“We want to declare as a fact that the Act does not target churches or religious bodies as was wrongly assumed. Misconception has enveloped this Act with deliberate misinformation and falsehood by persons who may not have fully and in fact personally read and digested the provisions of the Act.
“We consider it appropriate and responsible to appear before you and other fora to make these explanations,” he said.
However, he argued that the Act had become a law could not be tampered with by the President except CAN sponsored a bill to amend sections it consider offensive.
“The appropriate action your body or any other person could take is to sponsor an amendment bill to the Act to either expunge in whole any considered offensive provision or propose a redrafting to reflect your considered view,” he said.
He explained that Buhari on receipt of the bill took steps to get input from appropriate ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs) and declined assent on it twice during the 8th Assembly before recently giving his assent.
According to him, the bill did not sail through at its first introduction due to issues not related to the current ones being raised by the Christian body.
He said the law is not for religious bodies alone, but all registered incorporated trustees.
“Furthermore, the National Assembly is made up of Christians, Muslims and multi-faith composition and if there were any matter or content in the Act repressive of any religious faith, they would have spotted, arrested and expunged it from the bill in the course of consideration before the same was passed and transmitted to Mr. President for assent.
“Furthermore, the National Assembly is made up of Christians, Muslims and multi-faith composition and if there were any matter or content in the Act repressive of any religious faith, they would have spotted, arrested and expunged it from the bill in the course of consideration before the same was passed and transmitted to Mr. President for assent,” he added.