By Justin Onwujiogu 

The Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 on regulation of non-profit-making organisations has become one of the topical issues on almost all the social media platforms in Nigeria today.

But the truth is that the majority of people including many of our religious leaders and their followers protesting sentimentally over the new law regulating religious and other non-profit-making organisations in the country do not even have a clear knowledge and understanding of what that law is talking about.

First, let me state here that a law which tends to contain the wicked acts of some leaders or trustee members of some organisations is not in my opinion a bad one. Why won’t the government come in when leaders of these organisations have abused the leniency they enjoyed from the government? Since that law came into being, I have noticed that many people, especially our religious leaders and their members have gone gaga on social media over a law which now forms a part of our Business Law.

For clarity purposes, the government is not taking over our churches and other not-for-profits.  Also, there is no part of that law where it is stated that these organisations shall begin to pay tax to the government as many falsely allege.

The intent of the law on the operations of these organisations is to make sure that their activities are carried within the Four Walls of the Aims and Objectives for which they are set up or established. The government through the law is simply telling these organisations and their leaders who are exempted from tax payment to play by the rules. A situation whereby some leaders of these organisations frequently abuse their positions and powers consequent upon the leniency they enjoy from the government calls for immediate intervention to review their powers and operations.

It is incontrovertible that in the process of registering these kinds of organisations, the Aims and Objectives for setting them up are always stated. The sources of funds available to them and the purposes for which those funds are generated are also made clear. Any attempt by anybody by any means to depart from this is considered an aberration and possible attraction of government’s intervention through invocation of the appropriate laws.

Now, let me be a little bit blunt on this. It is no longer going to be business as usual for some religious leaders, founders of charity organisations and others who are always out of their selfishness and greed divert funds meant for the benefits of their members and the public into their private pockets. Those who use church money to build schools, shopping malls, hotels etc, but deny their members access to the benefits derivable there from will no longer be at peace with such infraction.

Now, the position of the law is clear and very simple. Operate according to the rules and regulations guiding your organisation or face the CAMA hammer. If you fail to cooperate, the government will wade in through the body in charge and the order of the court on receiving allegations of gross misconduct on the part of those in charge of such organisations. In other words, the government can now remove and make appointments for substitution of trustees alleged to have engaged in any form of gross misconduct with respect to the management of their organisations. Such person(s) so appointed acting as interim trustee(s) shall have the power to manage the organisation based on the powers or guidelines given by the body in charge or court until a reversal is made on the appointment.

Let us not be too sentimental to the extent that we forget the role that law plays in our lives today, which we all know that without it, many of us will not be alive. No matter how bad the system may look today, law is good and necessary if we must enjoy freedom, peace, and justice, unity and long life and not slide to the Dark Age where brutality, avarice and self-defence were the order of the day.

Now that there is a law that makes provision for government’s intervention on the management of religious organisations, among others, when necessary, some pastors have remembered the role of the Holy Spirit on the affairs of the Church. But these pastors have been enjoying government facilities in one way or the other. Their organisations are registered with the government and protected under law thereby making it impossible for others to use the same name with which they are registered. This same government they do not want to see on their matters, by extension of its leniency, exempted religious organisations and other non-profit organisations from payment of tax in anticipation that the Aims and Objectives for which they are set up will be religiously followed and implemented. Unfortunately, this is obeyed in the breach.

CAMA 2020 is simple. Play by the rules or face CAMA. If you do the right thing, the government has no business prying into your privacy. If you think that this law is a bad one, then, blame your representatives at the National Assembly, fight for amendment or you relocate to another country.

Justin Onwujiogu Esq. writes from Lagos

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