By Sunny Ikhioya
NOW that emotions, temperaments and sentiments have subsided, we can look dispassionately into the proposed adjustment to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, otherwise shortened as the CAMA act, which I will henceforth refer to as the CAMA law.
What is the reasoning behind the establishment of this law? Why must it come up for review now? We already have laws in place to take care of mismanagement at the personal, collective and institutional levels?
If we have, why are we not using them to effective levels? If the Western world is operating a law in their land, must it be same in our environment? Are we ready to allow institutions to work as obtainable in the developed world?
If we say we want to operate the law here because it is working in the UK and other countries, are we ready to do what the UK government is doing to make the law work? Are we ready to be transparent and open in every aspect of our governance structure? Those that know say that, we must come to equity with clean hands, but are the people in government clean in this instance?
How far and well have they managed the common wealth placed in their care? Is our common patrimony being managed judiciously as expected? How is our income managed? Is it done to the satisfaction of all in Nigeria?
If you cannot manage resources kept under your control, is it right to seek to aggregate more control to yourself? We must answer these questions honestly because as the late Peter Tosh said:”Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”
Everyone wants a good, transparent government and the good life, but the sacrifices to go with these luxuries are lacking in us. How do you expect justice and fairness from a government that is perceived to be skewed in structure and the allocation of resources?
How do you expect people to trust a government whose hierarchy is skewed towards one religion and ethnic group in a supposedly secular country? And you are castigating the people for opposing a law that threatens their freedom and basic rights?
No, on its own face value, the law appears innocuous, but a look at our people, composition and make up will reveal that going ahead with this law is a potential time bomb.
The law might be good and flourishing in other lands, but in Nigeria today, it is not the right time because the structure and institutions to drive it are not on ground; so justice cannot come out of it. When we say we “should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”, it does not mean that we should allow our places of worship to be invaded and desecrated by strange fellows.
At the point of registering every religious group or organisation, there are conditions to be met as spelt out by the Corporate Affairs Commission and it includes the governing board of the organisation and how its finances should be handled.
If it is not clearly spelt out, the organisation will not be duly registered. Just like political parties, these bodies have their own constitutions which are open to all members and govern their conduct.
When there are infractions, any member of the body is free to seek redress and our esteemed courts have always been willing to adjudicate in such matters.
We have seen such cases in the Celestial Church of Christ and the Assemblies of God Church and the courts have risen to the challenge arising from such disputes. So, the CAMA law, as it is today, is a double- edged sword; it can be used for good and for bad, depending on the people in government.
To avoid this discrepancy, therefore, it will be wise to place the CAMA law in the cooler, at least for now, until the country has developed sufficient capacity to run without the bottle necks of religion and ethnicity.
Wherever this law has worked elsewhere, you will discover that the people have collectively decided to embrace their institutions as against individuals, religion and ethnicity.
A South Korean court sentenced David Yonggi Cho, the foremost Christian religious leader, to jail in 2014 because the institutions there supercede individuals. It is the same country that put to jail the richest man in their country, Kim Woo Choong, founder of the Daewoo conglomerate. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for infraction against the law. But can this happen in Nigeria today?
How many of all the allegations made against our politicians and government officials have seen the light of day? We have shouted ourselves hoarse over corruption in NNPC, NDDC, National Assembly and others.
How many of those accused have been brought to book? Government and its agents in the civil service must acquit themselves first before extending their tentacles to religion.
We do not trust those in government with our patrimony; that is why the country is where it is today. We have all the basic resources to make our country great and we are going, cap in hand, to borrow money from countries that are less-endowed.
A situation where a top minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will come out to say that we cannot undertake a railway project to certain parts of the country, unless a foreign country grants us loan, is very worrisome; it just goes to show how hopelessly our assets are being managed.
Government must show sufficient proof that it can effectively manage the resources that we have placed in its care before it can be allowed to extend its tentacles into other areas of management; otherwise, it will become another money-making venture for civil servants.
If you look around today, it is the civil servants, apart from politicians having a field day. They are the ones who own lands in Abuja and other big cities, even though we all know how much the average government worker earns. If we allow them to go on with this law, it will just be another avenue to extort money from people and hound perceived enemies.
Let us not be deceived: Nigeria is not ready for such laws, no matter how experts try to rationalise it. We have laws already in place that can take care of any infraction; we should dig them out, resuscitate them and hand them over to our courts; that is the best way forward.
Anytime they are ready and show capacity, the world will know and people will, on their own, crave for it. For now, let it rest in the cooler.