Recently, one of the most powerful voices against dictorship and human rights violations in Nigeria and the founding Bishop of the fastest growing religious organisation:- the Living Faith Church, Reverend David Oyedepo has been made the object of political campaign calumny and vicious attacks by the Current president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari.
The unreasonable reason for these deluge of attacks including media attacks by some completely ignorant and rebellious characters, is because of the stand of the Christian leader concerning certain provisions of the companies and Allied matters Act of 2020 in which the financial controls of religious and non-governmental organisation were interfered with and certain powers vested in the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Reverend Oyedepo had advised the Federal Government to expunge the part of the newly signed amended CAMA that gives the supervising minister the power to remove the board of trustees of churches without recourse to the court.
The Bishop had affirmed as follows: “in the document, they said the registrar can remove the trustees with no recourse to the court. They shouldn’t try it. This must be from somebody who woke up from the wrong side of the bed after dreaming. The person must have drafted the aspect in the bill as their custom is. I am 51 years old in this thing (Christianity) , don’t try it. I have been with Jesus some time and i am sent as a prophet to the nations. There minister can remove the trustees and close the account of a church is….. Infact they say they would appoint managers. So, they can appoint occultists to be managers of church affairs when we are alive. Don’t try it when this crude prophet is alive, when all the sons of the prophets are alive. Don’t try it, this is a timely advice”.
But rather than engage in introspection and listen to divergent opinions on these contentious provisions in the amended version of CAMA, the president started pouring invective and unmitigated insults on Reverend David Oyedepo in what has become a familiar character of the media team of President Muhammadu Buhari to always resort to argumentum ad hominem whenever Nigerians are not happy with certain policies of the administration.
One of the most unruly and ethically notorious members of the President Buhari’s media team, even asked Oyedepo to set up his own Country if he can’t accept changes to the business law.
An aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, reportedly berated the presiding bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, David Oyedepo, for kicking against the Company and Allied Matters Acts in churches.
Oyedepo, while speaking in his church on Sunday, described as illegal the power given to a minister to remove a trustee and close the accounts of the church without legal backing.
He said, “Who was Paul persecuting? The church! Who said, “I’m the one you are persecuting?” Jesus! This country is going too far and it’s a risk. I saw something on CAMA (Company Allied Matters Act) and they put religious bodies there that Registrar-General can remove trustees without recourse to the court. Don’t try it!”
Reacting to the issue, the media said Onochie said, “I hope this is not true. If it is, Oyedepo will have to manufacture his own country and live by his own laws.
“As long as he lives and operates within the entity called Nigeria, he will live by Nigerian rules and laws. He will do as he’s told by the law. Enough of lawlessness.”
Recall that controversially, the new amendments to CAMA provides that religious bodies and non-governmental organisations will be strictly regulated by the Registrar-General of Corporate Affairs Commission and a supervising minister.
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.
I must state without mincing words that this garrulous media aide who deployed gutter language to respond to the well thought out criticisms of the amendment to CAMA 2020, must be living in fool’s paradise not to have realised that Nigeria is a constitutional democracy and therefore, President Buhari is neither an unopposed constitutional monarch nor is he a fascist leader in the mode of Benito Musolini of the pre-Workd war Italy.
What this means is that, Nigerians have the fundamental Human Rights to exercise their freedom of expression and in this instance, the opinion of Rev. Oyedepo is constructive and positive whereas the response from the presidency is irrational, idiotic, and thoughtless.
I will ask the media team of President Buhari to pick up copies of the Nigerian constitution to go through chapter four to realize that the president is totally obliged to listen to educated and rational opinion of Nigerians and to be responsive and not antagonistic.
Can they please in their sober moments read sections 39(1), 40, 38(1) as follows: says: “38(1). Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Then section 39(1) provides that: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impact ideas and information without interference.” The next section which is 40 added that: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests”.
Moreover, Nigeria being a constitutional democracy, cannot be making a law that makes the executive arm of government far and above the other arms or segments of government when the grund norm has clearly envisaged a clear delineation or Separation of powers in section 4,5 and 6 as follows: “4(1). The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
(2). the National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative list set out in part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
The House of Assembly of the state shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that is to say-
a. any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution;
b. any matter included in the Concurrent LEGISLATIVE List set out in the first column of Part ll of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and
c. any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
Specifically, the powers of the executive arm of government is provided for in section 5. (1) thus: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation
a. shall be vested in the President and may, subject as aforesaid and to the provision of any law made by the National Assembly, be exercised by him either directly or through the Vice-president and Ministers of the Government of the Federation or officers in the public service of the Federation; and
b. shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, all laws made by the National Assembly has, for the time being, power to make laws.”
Then section 6. (1) says,: “the judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation.
2. The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State.
3. The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the State, specified in subsection (5)(a) to (i0 of the section shall be only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record.
Before I proceed, can I say that it is irregular for president Buhari to try to control the finances of churches when there is a clear separation between church and state? Also, it is unnatural for the government to enjoy the arbitrary powers to suo moto nominate trustees for organisations that are NON-GOVERNMENTAL because this is a direct affront to the operational independence of non-governmental groups and a way to kill the vibrancy of the civil society community.
What has happened is that President Buhari through his lackeys in the National Assembly has succeeded in crippling opposition voices even when the essence of the law as a whole is to encourage ease of doing business.
By the way, how does religious worship fall into a commercial venture? Perhaps, the media officials recruited by president Buhari thinks that their boss is a tyrant and therefore not subject to the tenets of the Constitution which even in section 10 prohibits government from making religions as state apparatuses.
Make no mistake about it; the law itself is a wonderful piece of legislations but the insertions of these aforementioned toxic and obnoxious provisions to cripple religious worships and the independence of non-governmental organizations was done in bad faith and must be expunged just as Reverend Oyedepo demanded.
To begin with, the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (“the Act”), repeals and replaces the extant Companies and Allied Matters Act of 1990. The new CAMA, now seen as Nigeria’s most significant but nevertheless highly contentious and controversial business legislation in three decades, introduces new provisions that promote the ease of doing business whilst reducing regulatory hurdles and also bringing the provisions in tangent with the technological realities of the 21st century.
Promoters of this law in the media wants us to believe that this is expected to ultimately promote investments, create more jobs, and promote a friendly business climate in Nigeria. But they are dead wrong. How can government try to control how businesses are organised as if the executive arm of government now enjoys the judicial powers of the Federation. Why then do we have Section 6 of the Nigerian constitution?
Some of the provisions of the amended bill and how it will affect businesses are explained below by some media writers tgus: S.18 (2) of the new CAMA now makes it possible to establish a private company with only one (1) member or shareholder. This is good news for growing startups and young entrepreneurs because it has totally resolved business registration bottlenecks. A lot of businesses have been forced into unnecessary partnerships because prior to the new CAMA, to legally own a business in Nigeria, you needed to provide at least two or more people as co-owners of the business.
Section 40 (1): There is the introduction of Statement of Compliance (SOC) signed by an Applicant (or agent), without the need for a Lawyer or Notary Public to attest to Declaration of Compliance (DOC). SOC is a requirement of the law that indicates that the applicant has complied with the registration and requirements.
Section 27: This section replaces ‘Authorized Share Capital’ with ‘Minimum Share Capital’. This implies that the promoter(s) of a business is not required to pay for or allocate shares that are not needed at the specific time of incorporation.
The procurement of a Common Seal is no longer a mandatory requirement according to S.98 of the new CAMA. With the amended bill, companies can now authenticate documents by other means other than a common seal. This means you don’t need to stamp seals on documents anymore. The world is digital so who needs those seals.
The new CAMA makes provision for electronic filing, electronic share transfer and e-meetings for private companies. You can now register your business from anywhere in the country via the e-registration portal. The new CAMA also provides for remote or virtual general meetings, provided that such meetings are conducted in accordance with the Articles of Association of the company. This will facilitate participation at such meetings from any location within and outside the shores of the country, at minimal costs.
Small companies or any company having a single shareholder are no longer mandated to appoint auditors at the annual general meeting to audit the financial records of the company. S. 402 of the new CAMA provides for the exemption in relation to the audit of accounts in respect of a financial year.
Relatedly, these media canvassers of these reform measures stressed that the appointment of a Company Secretary is now optional for private companies.
According to S. 330 (1) of the new CAMA, the appointment of a company secretary is only mandatory for public companies.
Besides, the new Act, introduces Limited Liability Partnerships and Limited Partnerships, which combines flexibility and tax status of a partnership with the status of limited liability for members of a company. This they envisaged implies that Startups are not stuck with the option of setting up a Company, but also enjoy the benefits of partnership which a partnership agreement (including vesting agreement, and founders agreements) beyond the regular Articles and Memorandum of Association, whilst still protecting their personal assets from being sold in claims for debts, liability, or creditors.
The media reports too that Under Section 223 (12) of the new Act, filing fees for Registration of Charges payable to the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) has been reduced to 0.35% of the value of the charge. This they reasoned is expected to lead to up to 65% reduction in the associated cost payable under the regime
the new Act extends merger beyond LLCs to Incorporated Trustees.
Section 849 implies that two or more NGOs, social entrepreneurs with different registered organizations, with similar goals can merge to form one (1) single organization.
Section 119 emphasizes transparency in terms of control in a company. It requires that persons with significant control in a company disclose its shareholding to other shareholders. For example, anyone who has person(s) holding shares on their behalf as trustees or proxies, whilst being shareholders themselves in same company, are expected to disclose such relationship for transparency.
S.307 (1) of the Act prohibits a person from being a director in more than five (5) public companies at a time.
The media promoters of the amended version also claimed that the new Act introduces a framework for rescuing a company in distress and to keep it alive as against allowing such entity to become insolvent. Provisions were made with respect to Company Voluntary Arrangements (S.434 to S.442), Administration (S.443 to S.549) and Netting (S.718 to S.721).
The National Assembly and the Executive arm of government shot themselves on their legs by shutting out the real stakeholders in the process of amendments apparently to allow them introduce from the backdoors those tyrannical rules that will take the control of Non governmental bodies from their formators to the Government so they appoint their cronies to run these organisations if the government feels intimidated by the independent opinions of these Non governmental individuals. This is a plot to destabilize pluralism in the society. These amendments have failed the simple test of sound policy making process.
“Public policy is best described as the broad area of government laws, regulations, court decisions, and local ordinances.Today, government affects all aspects of our lives. Everyone has a stake in the public policies enacted by federal, state, and local governments.
Many citizens and groups try to influence public policy through the political process by supporting candidates and political parties. That’s a good way to make a positive impact, but not the best way.
Politicians and political parties come and go. Their positions on issues can change due to circumstances. They can be voted out of power as easily as they are voted in.
The best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion. When you change the beliefs of the people, politicians and political parties change with them”, (https://www.mackinac.org/).
The opposition of President Muhammadu Buhari to the strong voices that rejec these draconiam amendments is in breach of the well known rules of constitutional democracy.
As one top rating scholar wrote thus: “Rule of law and democracy are both desirable attributes of a political system. Scholars writing of democratic transitions from authoritarian rule usually argue that the goal of such a transition is the establishment of democracy with the rule of law, implying that both may be achieved simultaneously.”
The researcher stated that perhaps that is so. “What is often meant by rule of law is no more than the notion that government should work its will through general legislation, legislation to which the governors themselves are subject, rather than through irregular decrees and ad hominem proclamations.”
“But rule of law may require more than this: it may require that people are able to foresee accurately the legal consequences of their actions and not be subject to sudden surprises whether or not these take the form of legistation, or perhaps that the law contain, or at least not violate, certain substantive principles and rights.”
“Democratic rule minimally requires government by the people or their representatives, elected on a broad franchise. But, in some conceptions, it too many require more than that. Perhaps, democracy demands that the range of choice open to government be broad and not constricted by externally imposed restraints (such as legal protections for minorities). We expect, for example, or hope, that our government can correct inequities arising from markets or social interactions. Such interventions can involve confiscatory taxes or draconian regulations, either of which can threaten claims for minority rights. Or perhaps, democracy requires that the people be regularly and genuinely consulted on fundamental legal changes so that institutions or practices of deliberation and consultation are in place and functioning(https://www.researchgate.net).
These amendments that relates to the plot by President Muhammadu Buhari to control how NGOs and Churches are administered are satanic and must be expunged by the National Assembly or annulled by the Court of law immediately.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. huriwanigeria.com,www.emmanuelonwubiko.com;www.thenigerianinsidernews.com).