By Olasunkanmi Akoni
A group, under the aegis of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has described the controversial Company and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, 2020 as a declaration of war on Christianity and agenda to Islamise Nigeria by another means that must be resisted by all means.
HURIWA, therefore, charged President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government to Immediately expunge what it called “Toxic Provisions” in the CAMA, 2020.
Recall that on August 7, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the CAMA 2020, which repeals and replaces the CAMA, 1990. The controversial section 839 (1) and (2) provides that religious bodies and non-governmental organisations will be strictly regulated by the Registrar-General of Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, and a supervising minister.
The law also wields power to suspend the trustees of an association or a religious body and appoint an interim manager or managers to coordinate its affairs where it reasonably believes that there had been 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.
Consequently, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria CAN have earlier condemned CAMA, 2020, calling for its immediate suspension.
CAN President, Rev Dr. Samson Ayokunle, said, “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.”
Similarly, HURIWA, a prominent civil rights advocacy group, maintained that the act sought to dis-empower Non-Governmental Bodies and Churches so as to shut up Independent voices and opinions, which is a direct affront on constitutional democracy and a new form of dictatorship.
National Coordinator and Director, Media Affairs, Emmanuel Onwubiko and Miss Zainab Yusuf, respectively, in a joint statement on Saturday, stressed that it is reasonable and intuitive, within a liberal normative and institutional framework, to expect that human rights conditions would improve when a country makes the transition from an authoritarian government to democratic rule.
HURIWA noted, “A more recent obstacle to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and human rights as encapsulated in the Nigerian Constitution and international agreements that Nigeria signed into, which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter and People’s Rights is the amendments to the CAMA, 2020, which forms the fulcrum of the statement.”
Onwubiko continued, “On the crest of the desire of the people, the bill that sought to bring the religious organisations and NGOs under the control and influence of the government was rejected because it would kill the church, but regrettably it is now smuggled into CAMA through the ambush and making the rejected bill a law.
“This is of utmost concern because the establishment of a church has a spiritual foundation and the invitation of a manager who obviously does not share the spiritual insight of the founders of the church would undermine the church, insidiously defeating its purpose.
“Again, we discovered that CAC which will control Churches and NGOs has always been controlled by Hausa Fulani Moslem Northerners since inception. Even when Mrs Azinge acted briefly, President Buhari brought up kangaroo charges of non-declaration of assets to unseat her so as to make way for the candidate of the Moslems, controlled from the Sultanate in Sokoto.
“How then can a non-Christian head of government ministry be empowered to determine the running of the church as envisaged by the CAMA 2020.
“We are worried that this amendment would lead to the revocation of licences of not only NGOs but also religious bodies and other similar CSOs. It would also have disastrous consequences for the daily lives of ordinary Nigerians and to society more broadly.”
HURIWA, further contended that “The clause in section 839 of CAMA which shows that an order of the court is required to suspend the trustees of an NGO under that section the extant principles of Nigerian administrative law are adequate to ensure that the wrongful exercise of the regulatory powers of the CAC is brought under the supervisory control of the courts is misleading and deceptive owing to the sabotage and the undermining going on in our nation’s judicial system.
The judiciary has been hijacked by the Executive because the head of the Nigerian judiciary and the Chief Justice of Nigeria was rsik roaded into office by the Executive controlled Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“So this crippled judiciary can’t guarantee fair hearing in the event that a case is lodged against any action of the government against any NGO deemed unsatisfactory under the controversial CAMA 2020.
“While we are not against the government fighting corruption wherever it may be found as claimed by the proponents and supporters of the amendment, we completely reject the idea of bringing the church, which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under control of the government.”
According to HURIWA, “Assenting to the CAMA 2020, which repealed the CAMA 1990, despite its rejection at the public hearing is a declaration of war on Christianity and a further agenda to Islamise Nigeria by another means and must be resisted by all means.
“More so, the operational independence of plurality of voices in a democracy which these amendments to CAMA seek to undermine is tantamount to taking away the right to liberty and freedom and thus constitutes a huge obstacle to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and human rights as encapsulated in the Nigerian Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on civil and political rights and the African Charter on HUMAN and people’s rights.
“Besides, Nigeria as a constitutional democracy, cannot be making a law that makes the executive arm of government far and above the other arms or segments of government when the ground norm envisaged a clear delineation or Separation of powers in section 4,5 and 6 of the Nigerian Constitution.
“Therefore, section 839 of the CAMA 2020 is a direct affront on constitutional democracy, aimed at attacking freedom of speech, civil space and abrogate property and economic rights.
“This is not different from the military takeover of a government that has just happened in Mali. We wonder how President Buhari will be condemning the coup in Mali but happily staging a military or dictatorial coup against Churches and non-governmental bodies and CSOs.
“HURIWA is totally in support of Rev. David Oyedepo and the organised body of Christians that opposed the amendments.
“We join our voices with theirs to task the federal government to immediately expunge those toxic provisions. We also urge Nigerians to institute multiple court cases to challenge these illegalities.
“In Nigeria, there is a clear separation between church and state and it is strange for the government to enjoy the arbitrary powers to suo moto nominate trustees for organisations that are Non-Governmental because this is a direct injury to the operational independence of non-governmental groups and a way to kill the vibrancy of the civil society.”