since President Muhammadu Buhari signed the amended Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), there has been disquiet across the country. The problem with the law of over 800 sections, according to those kicking against it, is its provision on not-for-profit organisations. This provision recognises charity groups and covers them adequately. The point of departure for the law and religious leaders is the aspect on the taking over of a charity, such as a church or a mosque, where there is financial malfeasance.
By Lawal Ogienagbon
The clerics do not like that at all. The modern day Islamic or Christian leader is one who prides himself in having the capacity for many endeavours. He is not only a priest, he is also a businessman controlling a chain of businesses under the guise of running a church or a mosque. Until now, CAMA never focused on religious organisations. The law let them be because of the belief that the things of God should be left for God.
The Scripture said this much in the Book of Matthew during Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees who wanted to know his stand on what should be the relationship between the church and the state. Let’s read from the 17th to the 21st verses: Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou?
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he said unto them, whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
Clerics are quick to remind their flock to pay tithe and give Zakat, which they describe as the will of God for them. Their sheep believe them and do as their shepherd say. Unfortunately, these same men of God do not practice what they preach. CAMA has exposed many of them for who they are and it may yet be their Law of Karma, the way they are going about the law. What is in CAMA that has made these men lose their heads? What CAMA is demanding of them is accountability and transparency. Is that too much to ask of a man of God who sits in judgment over members of his charity (read as mosque or church) who look up to him for direction?
A cleric should be a guide, a man (used in generic term) of temperate words who does not operate on short fuse. A minister who blows his cool over a law is not worth his office because he is setting a bad example for his followers. Who is that priest that will stomach it if any member were to talk back to them the way they are doing to government over this CAMA matter. The only conclusion to draw from their action is that they have something to hide. The CAMA provision they have risen against has always been part of that law in respect of corporate bodies. Companies know that if they engage in unwholesome deals, they will be caught by the law which has been in existence for over 30 years. Many firms have been liquidated under the law and a receiver/manager appointed for them.
The appointment of the receiver/manager never encumbered the operation of those companies. The duty of a receiver is to breathe life back into an organisation and hand it over to its new owners as a going concern, or in the alternative see to the winding up of the company, as directed by the court. The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) did not enact CAMA; it is only expected to do its work in line with the law. As the operator of the law, it is empowered to take certain actions against a not-for-profit which is run for profit deceitfully. Religious organisations were not set up to make profit, but they have been doing so over the years, with the government looking the other way.
Since anything goes here, some Nigerian pentecostal churches ran back home from foreign nations when the heat was turned on them for operating outside the law. What they could not do in the United Kingdom (UK), United States (US), Germany and Canada, among others, they are doing here because they see themselves to be above the law. Little wonder, they talk not like men moved by the spirit, but like worldly beings that they really are. Only a man of God with ulterior motive will frown at CAMA. The law is not meant to witchhunt religious bodies. It is to protect the property and interest of those churches and mosques from ministers who are not different from satan that can sell their members for filthy lucre. After that, they will look you in the eye and ask what have we done wrong? Didn’t Judas sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver?. At the bottom of their opposition to CAMA, is the fear of being exposed for the fraud many of them are.
I am sorry to say that not many of our religious leaders can pass the integrity test. This is why they are not happy with the CAMA provision that an interim manager be appointed for a charity where there is fraud. As men of God, this is the kind of law they should support, but they will not because they have skeleton in their cupboard. Today, in many mosques and churches, people are recognised by their spending power. The more you spend, the closer you are to your father in the Lord. The minister of God is not interested in his spiritual son’s source of wealth. As long as the money keeps flowing that spender will remain the cleric’s beloved. Is money-making the mission of religious organisations? Or put in another way, is wealth acquisition the sole purpose of starting a mission?
This question has become pertinent in the wake of the CAMA controversy which is being stoked by some prominent church ministers, who believe that everything about them and their organisations must begin and end with money. Christianity and Islam did not start with money. The chief architects of both faith were not men of means. But they won people over with their faith and moral uprightness. This cannot be said of today’s ministers. Money, as the Bible says, is good as it is a defence. The same Bible points out that the love of money is the root of all evil. Therein lies the trouble facing the country today. Rather than help, men of God are compounding things with their love of money.
To the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which is in the vanguard of the opposition against CAMA, the law is “satanic”. What a strong word. If men of God talk like this, how different are they from lost souls? Rather than bring the roof down over this matter, they can go to court or seek another amendment of the law. But they should remember these immortal words of the Lord: Freely you have received, freely give. Serving in God’s vineyard should not all be about self, family and money.