Nigeria’s Government and Christian Leaders Yet to Reach Consensus on Controversial Law

Nigeria's Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Solomon Ita Enang (third left) and members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) during the September 1 meeting in Abuja.
Credit: Solomon Ita Enang/ Facebook

The government of Nigeria and Christian leaders are yet to reach an agreement on the controversial Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 that seeks to allow the authorities to control church operations.

A meeting between the country’s Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Solomon Ita Enang, and the members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) convened to discuss contentious issues in the law was held Tuesday, September 1.

The president’s aide assured the Christian leaders that the government was not intent on controlling the running of churches.

CAN representatives, on their part, insisted that President Muhammadu Buhari suspends the implementation of the law.

“We want to declare as a fact, that the Act does not target churches or religious bodies as wrongly assumed,” Mr. Enang said during the September 1 meeting held in Nigeria capital, Abuja.

He added, “Misconceptions have enveloped this Act with deliberate misinformation and falsehood by persons who may not have fully and in-fact personally read and digested the provision of the Act. We consider it appropriate and responsible to appear before you and other fora to make these explanations.”

Addressing allegations raised by CAN leadership that the law assented to on August 7 by President Buhari seeks to control church operations, Mr. Enang noted that CAMA 2020 has only repealed and replaced the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) of 1990 without any alterations.

“It is pertinent to state further that upon careful perusal of both provisions, it is crystal clear that both provisions are same and no new importation into the 2020 CAMA except the few key words as underlined for purposes of emphasis,” he said.

Christian leaders in the West African country have been contesting the law, which allows for the establishment of a commission to regulate, coordinate and monitor non-governmental organizations, calling on the country’s President to return it to Parliament for amendment.

Referencing CAMA 2020 in their August 20 statement, the Christian leaders who include representatives of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) 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.”

Among the issues of contention that the leadership of the Christian body highlight include Section 839 (1) & (2), which they say, “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.”

In his response to this claim during the September 1 meeting, Mr. Enang referenced CAMA 1990 insisting that its provisions are the same ones in the new law and thus trusteeship should not be an issue of contention as nothing has changed.

Any issue arising from CAMA 2020, the government official observed, “can only reasonably generate improvement, amendment and incorporation of International best practice as in other nation states as well as guidance from judgment of court on matters relating thereto in the 2020 CAMA subject of this brief.”

As a way forward, Mr. Enang informed CAN leadership that with the law having been assented to, the President “can no more act, except, for good cause to propose amendments upon the advice of scheduled officials.”

“The appropriate action your body or any other person could take is to sponsor an amendment bill to the Act to either expunge in whole any considered offensive provision or propose a redrafting to reflect your considered view,” he advised the Christian leaders.

He offered to “take the draft, work with you in getting willing Senators or Representatives to take your brief and your draft to sponsor on the floor of the respective chambers.”

In response, the Christian leaders, through their President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle reiterated their previous stand, calling on President Buhari to suspend the implementation of the law.

"Mr. President, from the foregoing, we are of the opinion that you should kindly issue the appropriate directives to suspend the implementation of CAMA 2020 and affirm a thorough reappraisal of the legislation,” Rev. Samson has been quoted as saying during the meeting.

The reappraisal, he said, should be “in correlation with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), other extant legal and policy frameworks, the national economy, national security, national interest and the wellbeing of the people.”


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