THE controversy following the assent into law by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, 2020, is an issue that requires amicable resolution rather than a unilateral mindset.
Any law (no matter how self-righteous or messianic it purports to be) that appears to touch negatively on the interests of about half of the Nigerian citizenry must be addressed to calm frayed nerves and restore confidence in the system.
Though the business community has applauded aspects of this voluminous law because it removed some bottlenecks, some civil society and religious interests have risen against some of its provisions.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, and other religious bodies which have traditionally promoted the principle of “separation of the Church and the State”, believe that it gives the government the power to manipulate the law against its core interests and values.
Also, a prominent advocacy group, the Social and Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has written President Buhari to rescind his assent to the law and send it back to the National Assembly to delete its “repressive” provisions, particularly Sections 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850. It threatened to sue if its requests are ignored.
The main bone of contention is the law’s provision that the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, has been empowered to, by order and “in the public interest”, suspend the trustees and appoint an interim management for any organisation registered with it once he “reasonably” believes there has been a misconduct, mismanagement or fraud.
This provision appears innocuous enough because no reasonable and law-abiding person would kick against an organisation which applied for registration being subjected to regulation by the appropriate government bodies.
Our fear, which is shared by many of the religious and civil society groups, is that this law may be part of the general move to imbue the Federal Government with overwhelming powers to control the lives of citizens.
We have seen it in the move for Ruga, the Water Resources, Hate Speech, Anti-Social Media Bills, Broadcasting Code, Community Policing and others.
We strongly believe that after 20 years of our return to democracy Nigeria should not be returned to a military-like dictatorship through a litany of draconian laws and regulations. More power and freedom should be given to the people to govern their lives.
Recent appointments into Federal Establishments of people from a section of the Nigerian ethnoreligious and cultural community and marginalisation of others stoke suspicion as to what these officials might do with controversial provisions of laws like CAMA 2020.
Unless these legitimate concerns are comprehensively addressed, we fear that efforts to implement the touchy aspects of this law may not promote peace and national cohesion.