Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has said that the major concern of religious leaders with the recently enacted Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 is the fear that the processes are not abused in a way that compromises the entire structure and operation of the organisation
Professor Osinbajo who spoke during the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference on Thursday stated that these leaders want to be accountable, contrary to views based on reactions to a section of the act.
He maintained that the CAMA 2020 is massive legislation that covers a wide range of issues on companies and if a section is contentious, what the aggrieved parties can do is to approach the National Assembly and propose an amendment.
“As a general position, I do not think it will be right to say that pastors don’t want to be accountable. I believe that several Christian organizations and pastors are willing to be accountable. The problem that they may have is ensuring that processes are not abused in such a way as to compromise the entire organization. And I think that if all that is required is some process of accountability, I think it will be easier for organizations to accept that.
“The concern of the Churches is that it could lead to a situation where practically anybody could be appointed as a trustee to oversee the Church and a Church or a Mosque is a spiritual organization and if you do not share the same faith with the Church or Mosque, you may be the wrong person and if a wrong is appointed, you may create more trouble for the organization.
“What can be done is that, whatever the proposal for amendment may be, whatever the views of the leadership of the church may be, regarding the question of how the trustees, whether they are interim trustees or not, can be put in the form of a proposal that will be taken to the National Assembly for consideration for an amendment to the law, that is the process which is entirely opened and ought to be pursued,” the Vice President added.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the CAMA bill into law in August, repealing and replacing the extant 1990 act, with the aim that the new legislation will be the most significant in three decades, promoting the ease of doing business, while reducing regulatory hurdles in the country.
However, a portion of the legislative piece tagged Incorporated Trustees, states that religious bodies and charity organisations will now be strictly regulated by the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission and the supervising minister.
Additional clauses in the act show that the commission can suspend the trustees of an association and appoint an interim manager to run the affairs of the organisation
But Vice President Osinbajo clarified that the section will affect these organisations; “Churches, Mosques, and church organizations are regarded as charities. It is the Incorporated Trustees Section of the Companies and Allied Matters Act that has become controversial. And because churches are charities, the provisions in the incorporated trustees’ section obviously affect the churches.
“What the Churches are concerned about is a provision that says that in the event that some wrong-doing is found to be perpetrated by the trustees of the particular organization or Church, the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) can go to court and get an order to appoint interim administrators or interim trustees for the Church or whichever charity organization and manage the organization.”
C.A.N Talks Tough
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) kicked against the act and called on President Buhari to suspend the law in the interest of the country.
“While we are not against the government fighting corruption wherever it may be found, yet we completely reject the idea of bringing the Church, which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under control of the government. The Church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations. This is why we are calling on the Federal government to stop the implementation of the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.
“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 the trouble that the government does not have the power to manage. Let the government face the business of providing infrastructure for the people.”