The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has said it has taken time to analyze the provisions of the amended Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020.
CAMA was assented by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 7, 2020.
CHRICED noted that going by the intrusive, repressive and obnoxious provisions concerning incorporated trustees as contained in the new law, it is apparent that the government has turned its lawmaking function into a sinister conspiracy against citizens.
In a statement to DAILY POST on Wednesday signed by its Executive Director, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, the group said, “We make no mistake about the fact that the target of the draconian sections of the law are the critical voices and organizations amplifying citizens demands for transparency, accountability and good governance. ”
CHRICED condemned and rejected the act, describing it as suffocating and basically rehashed from the discredited NGO Regulation Bill that was overwhelmingly rejected by Nigerians last year.
“It is those same despicable provisions that the government has surreptitiously smuggled into the CAMA Act. The subversion of the lawmaking function of the State, and the use of a rigged legislative process to foist oppressive and unworkable laws on citizens are tell-tale signs of a government that has lost the confidence and legitimacy of the people,” the group said.
“The opaque, nocturnal and non-inclusive manner in which the amendments in the CAMA were effected, without recourse to exhaustive consultations, through public hearing and robust debates involving citizens, robs those horrible provisions of their legitimacy.
“One of such vexatious CAMA provisions, as it affects registered associations, is the power grab by the government, as seen in Section 839 of the law.
“With this particular section, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is empowered to suspend the trustees of an association and appoint an interim manager. Also, Section 842(2) gives the CAC the powers to dissolve associations ‘for an unsatisfactory response to CAC request for evidence of activities over dormant accounts.’
“This gives the CAC draconian powers to shut down associations, without recourse to the courts. It also means that the CAC without recourse to the judicial process, can wake up one day, and use the ground of ‘unsatisfactory response’ to dissolve an association of citizens. The bottom line is that even if such an association is eventually proved innocent the damage to its brand, reputation and operations is already done.
“It is an irony that a government which has not been able to summon the political will to dissolve national challenges such as chronic insecurity, employment, lack of quality health services, dilapidated national infrastructure and extreme poverty, is so eager to dissolve associations formed by citizens. Unfortunately, even some NGOs, which should know that the CAMA Act 2020 with these toxic provisions constitutes an attempt to clamp down on the people, have been the ones applauding and giving dubious thanks to the government. For us, such a position of some NGOs is akin to thanking someone for giving you poisoned food.
“It is, therefore, our considered position that the lack of transparency, consultation, and inclusive debate on the provisions affecting registered associations, amounts to a coup against the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens to associate freely. No legislation passed through the back door can usurp the rights of citizens as conferred by the Constitution.
“Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states 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.”