Why Nigerian Pastors Are Waging War Against Controversial Act, CAMA
On August 7, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari in his characteristic non-consultative manner signed the 2020 Companies and Allied Matters Act into law, as proposed by the National Assembly.
Buhari’s assent to CAMA 2020 repeals and replaces the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990.
CAMA 2020 is supposed to provide a robust framework for reforming legal, regulatory and administrative bottlenecks which, for three decades, have made doing business in Nigeria substantially difficult, particularly for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
The CAMA comprises a total of 870 sections spread over 604 pages. Only a few sections of these deal with not-for-profit organisations. Apparently, the Act covers a wide range of areas on company law and related subjects.
All seems good in the CAMA 2020 except for Section 839 which does not go down well with the Christian community particularly.
In the same August, the church community in Nigeria under the umbrella of the Christian Association of Nigeria kicked against the CAMA, drawing out the “offensive provisions” of the section of the law which they claimed undermined religious autonomy and subsumed churches – spiritual entities – under secular control.
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Section 839 reads; “Section 839 (1) The Commission may by order suspend the trustees of an association and appoint an interim manager or managers to manage the affairs of an association where it reasonably believes that –
“(a) There is or has been any misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the association; (b) It is necessary or desirable for the purpose of – (i) Protecting the property of the association, (ii) Securing a proper application for the property of the association towards achieving the objects of the association, the purposes of the association of that property or of the property coming to the association, and (iii) Public interest, among others.”
Although CAMA in this section did not specifically mention church, mosque or any particular religion, the Christian Association of Nigeria smelt a rat and believed that churches being large spiritual and financial organisations are the target of the Nigerian government.
Pastor Bayo Oladeji, the Special Adviser on Media to the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Supo Ayokunle, in an interview then in August, highlighted the grievances of the Christian body against the law.
“Let me begin by saying that the government is there to make laws, rules and regulations which govern our society. We are not against that constitutional responsibility. But where the law is against the freedom of worship, where the law is against the ground norm which is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we will not welcome it.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria rejects the entire CAMA. We kick against it. To us, it is an ill wind which blows no one any good. The Act is ungodly and it is a wicked provision. This is because if you say the Act on the surface is for the non-governmental organisations and then it covers religious institutions including churches and mosques, then we cannot keep quiet. The government has been pretending by saying the Act is for NGOs. Ideally, they are supposed to say in the law that this Act has nothing to do with religious institutions. Then we would keep quiet and there would be no problem with it.
“During the First Term of President Buhari, I recall very well that the Senate and the House of Representatives conducted a public hearing on the NGOs bill and we were invited. The CAN there and then rejected the NGOs bill. Several other civil societies were there to also kick against it and the bill died at the public hearing.
“Everything we did at that place is now being smuggled in through CAMA. This is not god enough. This cannot be godly. That cannot be acceptable. This is why CAN rejects the ACT and condemns it with every word you may think of.”
Oladeji hinted at that time that the Christian body would explore legal options if the government failed to remove the controversial section.
He added, “There is a contentious Section of the law where it states that the commission has powers to dissolve a Board of Trustees of the association and even appoint a caretaker committee or their own people to be there. We know what recently played out when the Central Bank of Nigeria took over the management of some banks; they brought in their own people there.
“The CBN had the discretion to appoint outsiders to manage the banks till today. So, if the government says their intention is good; their motives and objectives are good, what happens if another government comes to power later and starts abusing the laws, what are we going to do?
“So, it is a law that we can regard as a time bomb and if it explodes, it will not help this country, honestly speaking. We have enough issues on our hands to deal with; we have terrorism, we have banditry, kidnapping and all manners of criminality in this country. The government has not solved these crises yet. They are bringing in another controversy. What do they stand to gain from this law?”
He stated that CAN was calling on the “government to suspend that law. The President should reverse it; President Buhari should, as a matter of urgency, send an amendment on CAMA to the National Assembly whereby religious institutions will be exempted. Until that one is done, that law will not stand and the church will not support it.”
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Apart from CAN, notable Nigerian clerics such as Bishop David Oyedepo, Apostle Johnson Suleman and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria have expressed displeasure at CAMA, asking the government to drop the controversial Section 839.
As the Federal Government failed to listen to the agitations of the religious community against the law, CAN took the government to court.
Time will tell what will happen to CAMA 2020 as it is now a subject of legal determination.