The most trending religious gist has been the new CAMA law which was signed a few weeks ago by President Muhammadu Buhari. Many have argued that a particular section of the law is targeting religious leaders, particularly pastors who have been at the helms of the affairs of their church and have been overseeing the financial aspects of their churches for many years. In this article, City People’s DAMILARE SALAMI (08155134152) takes a deep look at the law, its implications and why many pastors kicking against it.
THE CAMA 2020 LAW
The new Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, CAMA bill was signed on August 7th and has received backlash from religious, non-governmental and human rights organisations, who are kicking against some sections of the law particularly section 839. The new law, “Section 839 (1) empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association where it reasonably believes that- (a) There is or has been misconduct, mismanagement in the administration of the association.”
The law makes provision for religious bodies and charity organisations to be regulated by the registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and a supervising minister. Under the new law, church trustees can be replaced “if they (officials) reasonably believe there has been mismanagement, misconduct or fraud to protect its property in the public interest”.
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.
CAC REGISTRAR-GENERAL ALHAJI GARBA ABUBAKAR SPEAKS
Speaking at a retreat for members of Commerce Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) held recently in Abuja, the Registrar-General of the CAC, Alhaji Garba Abubakar, raised some serious posers for the organisations kicking against the new CAMA.
He said: “The law says once you submit yourself by accepting to register with the CAC, you are bound to obey all its laws as well. How is it that a registered member who qualifies to be a trustee in an organisation would not want the government to know how the organisation is run? What are the responsibilities of the trustees? What are the responsibilities of the governing council or the board? How do you manage the affairs of the organisation? How do you use or expend the income and properties of the organisation? How do you appoint members of the governing board? These are the issues the new CAMA has come to address.”
The other question, which Abubakar did not ask is where were the groups when the law was being considered in the National Assembly? Why is it only leaders of Christian organisations and CSOs that are vociferously kicking against the law? What options are available to groups opposed to the law other than declaring that it is totally unacceptable to them?
WHAT MANY POPULAR PASTORS ARE SAYING ABOUT CAMA
Many popular pastors in Nigeria have come out to express their displeasure with the new law. Here are what some of them have said.
The Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) described amended Company and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, as satanic. While rejecting the bill, CAN called on President Buhari to halt the implementation of “the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it. The body maintained that the bill will do no good, adding that it is ungodly, reprehensible and an ill-wind.In a letter signed by CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, but delivered by a former Chaplain of Aso Villa Chapel, Rev. William Okoye, CAN detailed its objections to the law, which has been buffeted by criticisms, especially from the Christian community.
The letter partly read: “We respectfully acknowledge the invitation extended to us to make an input into the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 following the myriad of objections that attended the enactment of the Act. “While we sincerely appreciate the courtesy of your invitation, we are, however, constrained from doing so on the following grounds: ‘We are yet to be availed with the authentic version of the voluminous Act, made up of 870 sections besides the sundry and complex schedules and addendum. “We consider the Act, as indeed, a complex of statecraft compendium, laden with issues that are grossly inimical to the national interest, security, and overall wellbeing of the Nigerian-state. “From the reactions of stakeholders and a cross-section of the Nigerian-state, it is apparent that the Act either did not receive input from the respective various interest groups or failed to accommodate their views, sundry concerns and varying interests of the Nigerian people.
The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Enoch Adejare Adeboye, in his opinion says he stands by CAN and PFN and noted that since both Christian bodies have rejected the law, he has no contrary opinion.
The presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, Dr David Oyedepo in his opinion advised the Federal Government to expunge the part of the newly-signed amended Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 that gives the supervising minister the power to remove the board of trustees of churches without recourse to the court.
Apostle Suleman Johnson of the Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide said ‘‘The CAMA act is a diabolic and evil intended act. It says they can change the board of trustees and no court can upturn it. Why will I respect an act that does not respect the law?’’
He also said church leaders in the U.S. and London have been funded by their government and even given lifeline especially during the COVID-19 pandemic “while Nigerian churches are left to their own fate”. ‘‘Somebody will say in America, in London, the government regulates charity organisations. That’s true. I should tell you what happens in America, I should tell you what happens in London. We have about eight churches in London, we have about 30 in America so I should tell you what works there. In America and London, a charity organization can collect grants from the government. They’ll apply for grants, and the government will fund them.
‘‘In this last pandemic in America, I know churches who got $80,000, $100,000, supported by the government. When you support charity organisations, you have the right to regulate them. Is it this country we will apply for a hundred million and the government will give us? If you give us, you can regulate us. We are not anti-government.
RICH PASTORS POOR MEMBERS, HOW TRUE?
Many Nigerians have argued that several pastors and milking their members and leaving them more vulnerable that is one of the reasons poverty has increased in the land. Many argued that some of the warehouses and factories that provided employment for many Nigerians have been converted into religious houses, particularly churches.
Nigeria was named the world headquarters of poverty a few months ago, however, some of the richest pastors in the world are Nigerians. Here is a list of top 10 richest pastors in Nigeria and their net worth according to Forbes. Bishop David Oyedepo (Winners Chapel) – $150 million (N54.5B). Pastor Chris Oyakhilome ranks second with an estimated net worth of $50 million. Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye (RCCG) – $39 Million. Prophet Temitope Babatunde Joshua (Synagogue Chruch of all nations) – $25Million. Pastor Ayodele Oritsejafor – $15 Million. Others are Pastor Chris Okotie (Household of God) – $10 Million, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo – $6 Million (KICC). Pastor Gbenga Oso – $3.5 Million (Laughter Foundation), Bishop Mike Okonkwo (TREM) – $3 Million. Pastor Lazarus Muoka (The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Movement)
‘HOW PASTORS MAKE THEIR MONEY’
Apostle Johnson Suleman maintained that their monies are not ill-gotten.
‘‘All these men of God you’re mentioning, Oyedepo, Baba Adeboye, how are they rich? I’ll tell you. The people who they invested in years ago are the ones now taking care of them. I am just telling you how pastors get money. There are people I raised up sixteen years ago, I trained them in school, did everything for them and today, they are taking care of me. ‘‘You say I should reject what they are giving me? They swear for me? There are some of you now, who I am supporting and taking care of. In the next five, six, seven years, God blesses you legitimately, won’t you take care of me? This is the secret to pastors’ wealth. ‘‘The tithes and offerings that come from this church are used for diesel. This last time when there was a lockdown was my best time because I saved a lot of money. There were no members to ask me for money, there were no members to ask me for rent. I was just enjoying myself. “The very Sunday they opened church, four million naira left me. We’re helping. There are some pastors that are ‘eating’ money, that’s their business.”
BENEFITS OF CAMA 2020
It is no longer news that the repealed Act was overdue for a change after 3 decades of provisions which became obsolete due to the dynamic nature of doing business globally. The new Act is expected to bring succour to businesses and promote ease of doing business. Some of the apparent benefits of CAMA 2020 are:
Watered down regulations for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: The new Act seems to ease some of the hitherto regulatory requirements for small businesses. This is expected to increase the activities of MSMEs thereby growing the economy in the process. More so, the reduction of reporting obligations of small companies, such as exemption from the yearly audit process will reduce cost so that more funds can be ploughed back into the business for expansion.
Reduction in time and cost of setting up a company: The new Act makes it easy for small businesses operating within the informal sector to be able to incorporate their businesses by registering at the Corporate Affairs Commission without the aid of a Lawyer. This has the potential of widening the tax base of the country thereby increasing revenue earned from taxation of corporate entities, and diversifying the economy.
Promotion of Financial Stability: The introduction of model netting provisions in the Act as a means of mitigating credit risks promotes financial stability and investor confidence in Nigeria.
Increasing Investor Confidence in the Nigerian Financial Sector as well as all sectors of the economy: Investor confidence in the Nigerian financial sector and indeed, all sectors of the economy is expected to significantly improve, due to a competitive and business-friendly environment where companies are regulated in line with global best practices.
Ease of Doing Business – CAMA 2020 mostly manifests the objective of the Nigerian government to simplify business operations and ensure overall progression in the Nigerian business environment. The friendly provisions towards small businesses will encourage more commercial activities which will attract potential investors and develop the economy. It is expected that the new Act will usher in a new business regime for overall economic development in line with international best practices.
CONTROVERSIAL AREAS UNDER CAMA 2020
As with any other regulation, CAMA 2020 has certain grey areas as well as drawbacks which professionals may grapple with. Some of the identified disadvantages are:
Blanket Authority of the CAC – in the new Act, the CAC is now empowered to impose penalties according to their discretion. Prior to CAMA 2020, the number of penalties were expressly stated, for example, officers of companies were either liable to pay 50 naira for every day a default persists or a fixed fee, but the new CAMA mostly leaves amount of penalty at the pleasure of CAC. The effect of this is that the commission may assess fees as it thinks fit regardless of the gravity of non-compliance. It is therefore important for companies to observe strict compliance with the provisions of the Act so as to avoid heavy fines that may accrue as a result of non-compliance.
The informality of Small Companies and MSMEs – The Act seems to tilt more in favour of small companies as they are exempted from regulatory bottlenecks and corporate governance standards. Although this may be considered a benefit as the objective is to reduce operational cost, however, companies whether small or large require a certain level of legal and regulatory decorum for optimal growth and profitability. Such companies are therefore advised to engage the services of professionals to advise and manage their affairs.
Steep Regulations for NGOs, Associations, and Foundations – Part F of CAMA 2020 empowers the CAC to fire trustees and employ managers to replace them. In addition to this, the Commission may, with the assistance of the Banks, freeze the bank accounts of any association whose account is dormant. It is thus contemplated that the requirements of CAMA 2020 concerning NGOs may stifle the affairs of Associations and lead to the dissolution of many of them. Furthermore, many may be discouraged from incorporating their associations due to the strict requirements now involved in running the affairs of an association. Currently, the CAC has implemented its guideline to obtain the consent of the Registrar General before registering an NGO or Association although this requirement is ostensibly absent in CAMA 2020 but now in motion at the commission at an extra cost.
Likelihood of Bias –The Administrative Proceedings Committee introduced by CAMA 2020 and to be presided over by the Registrar General negates the principle of natural justice. It is a known principle of law that no person can judge a case where they have an interest. The Chairman of the Administrative Committee should be an independent person with the full knowledge and experience in company law as opposed to the Registrar General. Although there is a provision for appeal from the decision of the committee, it is equally imperative to ensure that the proceedings of the committee are free from any form of bias.