Alleges some provisions gag CSOs, media, faith-based organizations
As human rights are infringed upon, calls on Senate to act fast
By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpang – Abuja
A Civil Society Organisation, CSO, Yiaga Africa, Wednesday, expressed worry, kicked and called for the amendment of the controversial Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020.
Speaking at a Stakeholders’ Round-table on CAMA 2020 and Emerging Issues’, the Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, argued that as far as the CAMA 2020 provides better regulations for ease of business, however, there are certain provisions that have the potentials to restrict the operations of Civil Society Organisation, CSOs, Nongovernmental Organisations, NGOs, and faith-based organisations.
According to Mbamalu what the new CAMA did is to repeal the previous one, which was enacted in 1990 under the military regime.
She acknowledged that the passage of the law remains an important action because it was to review the previous law and provided better regulations for ease of business including operations of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria, and others.
She said: “Today we are having a stakeholder meeting on Company and Allied Matters Act 2020, which was signed by the President into law in 2020.
“Together with other Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, we actually observed that there are certain provisions in the existing CAMA, which have potentials to limit and restrict the operations of CSOs in Nigerian including both Nongovernmental Organizations, NGOs, even religious bodies, faith-based organizations and even media and institutions that are registered.
“For us what is important is that yes, the law has been passed there is an opportunity to engage and our goal is to work with other stakeholders to reveal specific sections that are problematic and make proposals of further Amendment to the sections under Part F of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020.
She (Mbamula) noted that there is already a bill that was presented at the House of Representatives proposing amendment Sections 839 of the law “and we are also hoping there will be another introduction in the Senate.”
Speaking on how the CAMA 2020 affects fundamental human rights as embedded in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, she said that, “There is no perfect law and for every law that would potentially affect the freedom to exercise fundamental freedoms in Nigeria, especially fundamental human rights then we need to ensure that those laws are reasonably justifiable in Democratic Society.
“So that is why we are having this meeting today to look at these sections in the legislation and make a proposal for the amendment to those sections in the CAMA 2020.”
She further pointed that whatever decisions that will be taken in respect to that must follow due process, which guarantees the rights of those organizations which at the point of establishments or are the point of becoming organizations had some level of shared purpose and values that were guiding them.
“Beyond just objectives, the institution makes sense to have an outsider or regulatory body interfere in those levels of measures and decisions and impose upon those companies, organizations or institutions and individuals that do not understand those shared values and shared purpose, which is why we need to review those particular sections and make proposals”, she said.
She also explained that the meeting was actually a technical meeting whereby they are reading through particular sections under Part F of CAMA 2020.
“The idea is to come up with draft proposals and use that for legislative advocacy in the House of Representatives and the Senate also working with the honorable member that has already sponsored a bill to amend Part F of the CAMA so Proposals from would also be presented to him and to engage for advocacy to review the law in both the Senate and House of Representatives”, She said.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr. Godwin Malasowe, while making a presentation on analysis on the CAMA 2020 which repealed that of 1990, which Malsowe compared the CAMA 2020 with Companies Act in other climes, whereby he pointed at the Company’s Management in the United States of America, USA, and Management in Kenya.
He asserted that “To be able to extract the innovations and the pros and cons of those Innovations, basically, I think that the Act is actually structured to hearse the ease of doing businesses in the country and to make it easy for particularly private businesses.
“The reason for these two jurisdictions is because the U.S. is usually taken as a template for you know international best practices and of course we are able to juxtapose Nigeria side by side with Kenya.
“So I decided Kenya because they share a lot of similarities, they are both poor countries so to say, unfortunately, so and they are both emerging economies and are both African countries.
“Kenya is a leading economy in the Eastern Bloc of Africa, and of course Nigeria is the leading economy in the western bloc of Africa, you know, so when we look at all those things and we also make our recommendations.
According to him there is the need to unbundle the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, “We think that the Corporate Affairs Commission has a lot on its plate and some of these things have to be taken away and given to smaller bodies as we saw in Kenya.
“We saw that in Kenya we have the Public Benefit Organization Board and Act, we also have the NGO Coordination Board and we have the NGO Coordination Act.
“All these things are to help keep an eye on what organizations NGOs and CSOs the Civil Society organizations are doing on like what we have in Nigeria that everything is just under the Corporate Affairs Commission.”
Malasowe further recommended that local authorities should be given the power to register and supervise Allied Matters at the state and local government levels, which he said: “Looking at our structure of government that we borrowed from the United States of America that we call the presidential system of government, we see that their company’s management also reflects true federalism in such a way that you can actually incorporate and register a company in any state that you are and it enables that state to keep an eye on what you are doing.
“But in Nigeria, it is not like that everything is tied to Abuja which takes away companies operations and supervisions from the local authorities. So our recommendation is that local authorities should be given the power to supervise the Affairs and the operations of Allied Matters.”
He further stated that Part-F of the Act which affects faith-based organizations is established on bureaucracy and faith is not subjected to bureaucracy but to divinity.