Law Seeking to Control Churches in Nigeria an “anti-corruption measure”: President Buhari

controversial Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020.
Credit: Public Domain.

The President of Nigeria has said that the controversial Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, which is being contested by Christian leaders over its attempt to control churches, is a measure to help fight corruption.

Speaking at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) 2020 Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Thursday, September 24, President Muhammadu Buhari said that the legal framework is among the anti-corruption measures that his government has put in place in line with OGP reform commitments.

“Since the inception of our Administration in 2015, the Government has been committed to changing international and domestic perceptions regarding Nigeria’s commitment to fight corruption and foster good governance,” President Buhari has been quoted as saying during the virtual meeting.

Since then, the President added in reference to the start of his Presidential term in May 2015, “we have made significant progress in implementing tougher anti-corruption measures, including my recent assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020.” 

The law “provides a legal framework for the implementation of Beneficial Ownership Information Disclosure in Nigeria,” he went on to say during the September 24 meeting, which is part of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA75) in New York, United States.

Christian leaders in Africa’s most populous country have, under their umbrella body the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), contested the law, which President Buhari assented to on August 7 and called on him to return it to Parliament for amendment. 

According to CAN members who include representatives from the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), the law seeks to allow the government to control church operations through the establishment of a commission to regulate, coordinate and monitor non-governmental organizations.

“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,” CAN officials said in their August 20 collective statement.

They highlighted Section 839 (1) and (2) of the controversial law, 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,” terming it as “Satanic.”

“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 probed in their August 20 statement.

They went on to caution the Government against implementing law saying if their pleas go unhidden, then Buhari-led Government will have “declared war on Christianity and the agenda to destroy the church which we have spoken against before (and) now is coming to the open more clearly.”

An attempt by the government of President Buhari to reach consensus with CAN members on the law has not been successful after a September 1 meeting between the two parties ended without an agreement. 

During the meeting held in the capital Abuja, the country’s Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Solomon Ita Enang, who represented the government assured the Christian leaders that the government was not intent on controlling the running of churches.

On their part, the CAN leaders insisted that President Buhari suspends the implementation of the law and “affirm a thorough reappraisal of the legislation.” 

The reappraisal 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,” CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle said during the September 1 meeting.

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