, 21 August, 2020 / 10:29 PM
Christian leaders in Nigeria have termed as “unacceptable, ungodly, and reprehensible” the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 legal framework that seeks to allow the government to control church operations.
In the August 20 statement obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called on the country’s President, Muhammadu Buhari to return the law to Parliament for amendment.
“The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) rejects outright the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 that was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari recently,” CAN members say in the Thursday, August 20 statement signed by Adebayo Olajide, the special media assistant to the association’s President.
They add, “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.”
The law assented to by President Buhari on August 7 allows for the establishment of a commission to regulate, coordinate and monitor non-governmental organizations, a move the Christian leaders “completely reject” as it “brings the Church which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under control of the government.”
“The satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law is Section 839 (1) &(2) which empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint the interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons,” CAN leaders note in the August 20 statement.
“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?” the church leaders probe.
According to the association’s leadership, the law is a repeal of Companies and Allied Matters Act, 1990 (1), which was introduced in the country’s Parliament in Buhari’s first term, attempting to bring the religious organizations and NGOs “under the control and influence of the government.”
They recall, in their August 20 statement, that back then the bill was “totally rejected” by CAN and other NGOs during the public hearing “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,” CAN members who include the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CNS) bemoan in their collective statement.
“Is this not gradually becoming a dictatorship or what was the essence of the Public Hearing you called us to when you had made up your mind not to consider the position of Christians at all which we presented during the Public Hearing?” CAN members lament.
They consider the attempt to control churches “an invitation to trouble that the government does not have power to manage” and advise the leadership of the country to “face the business of providing infrastructure for the people.”
The government, CAN members say, “should not be a busybody 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.”
“The Church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations,” they say and add, “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.”
They call on President Buhari to “urgently return the law to the National Assembly for immediate amendment” and remind him that the country should not be compared with any other nation when it comes to the relationship between the religious institutions and the government because “in Nigeria, people’s religions are tied to their humanity and of course, their life.”
Should the government implement the law despite their protests, the Church leaders say, then it will 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,” CAN members tell the President Buhari-led government and probe, “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?” they further probe and call on all well-meaning Nigerians to ask the Federal Government “to suspend the law because we do not need it in this nation.”
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa