The best way out of the quagmire is for FG to review the law
There is a colloquial Public Relations saying that “the doing is more important than the saying, but there must be saying after the doing.”
To paraphrase: “There is nothing wrong in blowing your trumpets, but there must be something worthwhile to blow your trumpets about.”
The government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will find this PR nugget handy on the occasion of the country’s 60th independence anniversary.
Coming out of recession and straight into coronavirus pandemic, Nigerians have been through a harrowing five year-period that left them with fragile sensitivity. Instead of being upbeat and optimistic that the country is crawling out of the black hole of Covid-19, the populace is presently simmering with anger, outrage and criticism, throwing up a classic case of the people versus the government on many fronts. A handful of issues precipitated by the government has gotten under the skin of the people: hike in the price of petroleum products, the vexing new CAMA, the controversy of the purported rail project to the Niger Republic, the country’s ballooning debt burden due to unbridled borrowing, the continuing freefall of the naira and so on and so forth.
What is more annoying is that the government wants the people to believe that everything being done is in their interest, even when policies inflict hardship on them. The consequence has been a brew of silent revolt against the government that swept into power five years ago, whose avowed good intentions, so-to-speak, have become hard sell to the people.
The new Company and Allied Matter Act, CAMA, is a locus classicus of the government’s habit of shooting itself in the foot. There is no bigger issue that gives the government bad optics as that which pitches the Church against the State.
We are doing it for the good of the Church, says the government. But the Church is seeing dire handwriting on the wall.
The Christian community is not being paranoid by frowning at Section 839 (1)&(2) of the law which empowers the Corporate Affairs Commission to suspend trustees of a not-for-profit organisation (the church in this case) for mismanagement reasons and appoint interim managers to manage its affairs.
It is dangerous enough that the new law prevents affected party from bringing a suit against the CAC within a reasonable time. What angered the people most is the notion that the controversial section of the new law was smuggled in, having been rejected during a public hearing of another bill at the National Assembly a few years ago.
While churches are grouped under the Not-for-profit category, the idea of bringing the church under the control of government is ill-conceived. Defenders of the controversial law have pointed to “seemingly” similar convention in other countries, but they forgot to observe that the Federal Government of Nigeria, compared to the government in the UK and US, fell short of its own side of the bargain to the people, the church and the society.
The church has been the refuge of ordinary Nigerian in this precarious decade when the country is plagued by poverty and pandemic and citizens now lives in a purgatory of death in the hands of Boko Haramites, bandits and kidnappers.
The church has provided education, from basic to tertiary institution, to augment, fill the gap and close the deficit in education. Churches have provided basic services like free or subsidized health service to its members; some churches have embraced charitable causes and are up-and-doing as donors.
The government has to stop repeating the refrain that all its actions are of good intention; instead of talking it, show the people. The doing is more important than the saying.
A government that seeks to do good for the church must first seek for ways to first bolster the good that churches are doing before thinking of finding a way to hold them accountable.
Given the protest that greets the new law, it is prudent for the Federal Government to revisit and revise the CAMA.
The Church has been a partner in progress with government in the past decades. If government cannot empower them to do more, it has no moral justification for enacting a law that could hamstring them.