CAMA, an acronym for Companies and Allied Matters, is a law of federation of Nigeria. It is a law that established the Corporate Affairs Commission CAC, an autonomous body charged with the responsibility to regulate the formation and management of companies in Nigeria. The old CAMA act has been in operation since 1990 until August 7, 2020 when President Buhari assented to the Companies and Allied Matters Bill, 2020 recently passed by the National Assembly.
The new replaces the 30 year old act and according to Mr. Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the President on media and publicity is to improve corporate legal innovations geared toward enhancing ease of doing business in the country.
CAMA Act is a comprehensive and bulky document that comprises a total of 870 sections spread over 604 pages, the act that has become law of the federal government of Nigeria with Mr. President’s assention. However section 839 subsections 1 and 2 that deal with “Not – For – Profit” or Non-Profit Organizations are viewed to be controversial, perceived by some sections to be a subterfuge to take control of their organisations.
Section 839 (1) says: 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,
(iii) Public interest;
(c) The affairs of the association are being run fraudulently.
Subsection 2 says: The trustees shall be suspended by an order of Court upon the petition of the Commission or members consisting one-fifth of the association and the petitioners shall present all reasonable evidence or such evidence as required by the Court in respect of the petition.
We must be mindful of the fact that this act did not target or specifically mention church, mosque or any particular institution, nevertheless, the criticisms that greeted it came out in torrents.
Bishop Oyedepo the General Overseer of Winners Chapel is the first person to react. He said “this will never work. I am waiting for a day when anybody will appoint a trustee over this church… You can’t gag anybody. We own this country together.
It is only in Africa that people who are over 80 years still run around to become president. I know that it is the prosperity of the church that is making them jealous. But I am going to live to see an army of many winners soar greater. In this church shall emerge one of the largest concentrations of giants on earth.”
Lending his voice, Apostle Suleman described CAMA as “illiterate” and “uneducated”. “You don’t appoint a board of trustees who have not been around, with a stake in the company.
“To say you will carry one northern Muslim to the board, you are mad,” he said.
“It is an insult. You didn’t contribute to the land; you didn’t contribute to the running of the ministry.
“For 16 years, I have been running the ministry, paying salaries, supporting widows and the poor. We will use fasting and prayer to kill you.”
The Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), described CAMA, as satanic.
It called on President Muhammadu Buhari to halt the implementation of “the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.
Nigerian human right activist and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said he had read the law and that it was badly drafted. He said a government that set out to facilitate the ease of doing business could not have come up with a 604-page business law. Falana stated that the law was not completely new, as registered NGOs were regulated in the past in line with the practice in all democratic societies.
He said the only addition which was objectionable was the power conferred on the commission to take over and manage NGOs on allegations of misconduct.
Falana stated that the law was illegal because it was a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of association guaranteed by section 40 of the Constitution.
In his words: “I have read the law. It was badly drafted. A government that set out to facilitate the ease of doing business could not have come up with a 604-page business law (CAMA 2020).”
“But it is not a completely new law. Registered NGOs were regulated in the past in line with the practice in all democratic societies. The only addition which is
Objectionable is the power conferred on the commission to take over and manage NGOs on allegations of misconduct.
“It is illegal because it is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of association guaranteed by section 40 of the Constitution.”
Aside Mr. Falana, most of those that are vociferous against CAMA are members of the Pentecostal arm of CAN while the Protestants have maintained a studied silence; neither has the Islamic faith spoken against it.
The reason is not farfetched.
Many Pentecostal churches lack internal control mechanisms, checks and balances in running affairs of the organisations, unlike the Protestants.
Most Pentecostal churches in Nigeria run an opaque or less transparent system, barely opening their books for public scrutiny, are privately run by the founder and his wife, kind of sole proprietorship. In some rare cases, to present a semblance of transparency, some constitute a board of trustees, comprising handpicked members that will be subservient to the founder. The absence of checks and balances in many of these churches resorts to conflicts, odious and opprobrious infightings, scandalous financial dealings that ultimately lead to break away factions.
This is the root cause of problems associated with the body of Christ and the resultant effect is the existence of mushroom churches in Nigeria.
Some few examples of odious crises suffice.
For example, Bishop Oyedepo and his protégé, Bishop Adjeman, a Ghanaian had countless battles over the control of Winners Chapel of Ghana. The conflict arose over financial independence that resorted to prolonged legal battle in court between the two, Adjeman successfully hijacked the Ghanaian chapter and extricated himself from the strangle hood of Oyedepo
Recently, Pastor Tola Odutola, one of the most prominent pastors of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, in the United States, broke away from the church. Odutola, who is the senior Pastor of Jesus House Baltimore, left the church after 30 years of service. While resigning, he said he was never rewarded for his efforts even after working hard to build the church he just left
Also there was a leadership tussle at the Assembly of God church, Enugu where the general superintendent resisted moves to remove him from office. The protracted battle ended in courts where both parties are laborious in protecting their interests.
These are some of the litanies of woes and crises bedeviling churches as a result of lack of administrative control mechanism
In order to clarify some misgivings about the CAMA act, some burning issues and questions should be put in the right perspectives. Some of these questions will be dealt with accordingly.
With this new act, it is often repeatedly said that Buhari’s government wants to persecute Christians and Islamize Nigeria. To answer this question, it is noteworthy that the CAMA act is an act of the national assembly and not initiated by the Presidency. It is an act that passed through different stages of lawmaking from: initiation, drafting, gazetting of the bill, public hearing, first to third reading of the bill before presidential assent.
Where was the anti CAMA when there was public hearing?
In a nutshell, how does an act that was not presented as an executive bill should be seen as an act to Islamise Nigeria?
Does it make sense?
Does the CAMA act have the power to regulate the activities of religious institutions?
Yes it does.
It is the extant law that established the Corporate Affairs Commission CAC, an autonomous body charged with the responsibility to regulate the formation and management of companies in Nigeria. If religious institutions are registered with CAC, it also has power to supervise and manage it. If the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issues licenses to banks and at the same time has powers to suspend the board and revoke licenses of banking institutions, why should churches kick against CAMA?
Is CAMA acting draconian?
The CAMA act is not draconian and does not infringe on freedom of association. The act passed through the rudiments of legal drafting and it is explicitly stated that the trustees shall be suspended by an order of Court.
Churches and other religious institutions that registered as Not For Profit organizations are expected to comply and abide by the objectives, terms and reference of the law. By so doing they must comply with extant rules and laws of government. It is mischevious on the part of critics of this law to ascribe that Churches are property of God and the government has no business in regulating affairs of churches. If they are God’s property, why are they registered with an organ of government?
As long as Nigerian citizens are part of religious institutions, the government owes her citizens to protect their interests and nip in the bud if laws are being violated or breached, and if the government refuses to do the needful, it should be seen as an abdication of responsibility.
Since some of these churches have refused to regulate their activities in promoting transparency in governance, getting involved in commercial activities and not paying taxes, the government has no choice than to fulfill its responsibility and stop the drift.
I’m of the firm belief that religious institutions, just like any other sectors of the economy must be regulated for public good. Cheap blackmail will not work.
They have a choice of not registered; it means they have subjected themselves to vagaries of business such as payment of taxes.
Churches cannot eat their cakes and have it.
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