The new Company and Allied matters Act, CAMA, 2020 has received more bashing from the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN.
While CAN in a statement by the President, Reverend Samson Ayokunle, described the piece of legislation as a time bomb waiting to explode, PFN said it would go to court to challenge it.
The Act, among others, stipulates that religious bodies and charity organisations would be strictly regulated by the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, and a supervising minister.
It also provides that the commission may, by order, suspend the trustees of an association or a religious body and appoint an interim manager or managers to coordinate its affairs where it reasonably believe that there has any misconduct or mismanagement, or where the affairs of the association are being run fraudulently or where it is necessary or desirable for the purpose of public interest.
The Christian Association of Nigeria described it “The law, to say the least, is unacceptable, ungodly, reprehensible and an ill-wind that blows no one any good. It is a time bomb waiting to explode.”
CAN recalled 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 Organizations, NGOs, Regulatory Commission For The Supervision, Co-ordination And Monitoring of Non Governmental Organizations”, which CAN and many NGOs attended.
Ayokunle stated: “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.
“The satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law is Section 839 (1) and (2) which empowers the commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons.
“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.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently return the law to the National Assembly for immediate amendment. Nigeria should not be compared with any other nation when it comes to the relationship between religious institutions and the government. In Nigeria, people’s religions are tied to their humanity and, of course, their life.
“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.”
He, therefore, urged government to face the business of providing infrastructure for the people, focus on better health provision, food, education, adequate security and employment, among others.
“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.
“If the government is bent on imposing a law on us which the entire Church in Nigeria is against, then, they have declared war on Christianity and the agenda to destroy the Church which we have spoken against before now is coming to the open more clearly.
“If you cannot give us good amenities of life, we would not allow you to take away our liberty to worship our Maker. What good thing again will you not take away from the people in the name of being in power?
”Are we not running a democracy which is a government of the people by the people and for the people? Is this not gradually becoming a dictatorship or what was the essence of the public hearing you called us for when you had made up your mind not to consider the position of Christians at all, which we presented during the public hearing?
“We call on all well meaning Nigerians to ask the Federal Government to suspend the law because we do not need it in this nation,” Ayokunle said.
On his part, National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Rev. Felix Omobude, vowed to deploy every constitutional means to upturn the unacceptable ‘copy and paste’ legislation imported by the National Assembly to undermine the authority of religious organisations in the country.
He told Vanguard in a telephone interview that his vociferous group of Christians was studying the voluminous piece of legislation and would in no distant future respond appropriately.
“We were told the National Assembly was in the process of working on an Ease of Doing Business Bill and we didn’t know that lawmakers were going to smuggle into the legislation a provision that would affect religious organisations. I can tell you that we earlier made our position known to the legislators,” he said.
On the general implication of the legislation to the practice of religion in the country, the Pentecostal leader assured Christians in the country that the PFN would not disappoint them as it will after the study of the new Act, deploy every constitutional means to restore the dignity of the Church in Nigeria. He said: “We know our rights. This is democracy and not a military regime where the rule of law is not respected.
“You can’t compare us to the UK and the US because in those climes Churches, as charity organisations, are supported by governments but here, we are involved with corporate social responsibility and all manner of empowerment of the less privileged without the government thinking of assisting the churches.
“Churches don’t get anything from government here. Despite that, we are being intimidated and harassed by the people whose responsibility it is to provide basic infrastructure for citizens to develop their potentials in their country.
“The PFN is collaborating with the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to study the document and like I said earlier, we will deploy every constitutional means to redress any infraction in the legislation. ”I, therefore, urge Nigerian Christians to be patient as we are law abiding people who will not do anything to jeopardize the unity of this country.
“Everybody should, however, appreciate that we know our rights and we will do everything to uphold our rights at anytime.”