By Udora Orizu
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to urgently rescind his assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA 2020).
The group urged the president to send the legislation back to the National Assembly to address its ‘fundamental flaws’, including by deleting some provisions of the Act, particularly sections 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 contained in Part F of the Act, and any other similar provisions.
The organisation is also urging him to instruct the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Alhaji Garba Abubakar, and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), not to implement or enforce the CAMA 2020 until the legislation is repealed by the National Assembly, as well as brought in line with the 1999 Constitution of (as amended), and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.
In the letter dated August 22, 2020, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said with the provisions, the government now has overly broad and discretionary powers to arbitrarily withdraw, cancel or revoke the certificate of any association, suspend and remove trustees, take control of finances of any association, and to merge two associations without their consent and approval of their members.
The letter read in part: “SERAP is concerned that the provisions would be used by the authorities to exert extensive scrutiny over the internal affairs of associations as a way of intimidation and harassment, which would eventually unduly obstruct the legitimate work carried out by associations.
“We would be grateful if the requested action and measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and your government to take these measures in the public interest.
“Please note that SERAP has instructed its legal counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), to take all appropriate legal actions on our behalf should your government fail and/or neglect to act as requested.
“Citizens’ decision to join with others in pursuit of a common goal is a fundamental aspect of their liberty. The right to freedom of association also plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate. This freedom is at risk if the government can compel a particular citizen or a discrete group of citizens to merge their associations.”
SERAP added: “Constitutional guarantees of freedom of association would be very limited if they are not accompanied by a guarantee of being able to share one’s beliefs of ideas in community with others, particularly through associations of individuals having the same beliefs, ideas or interests.
“By seeking to suspend and remove trustees, and appoint interim managers for associations, the government seems to want to place itself in a position to politicise the mandates of such association, and to undermine the ideas that the right to freedom of association and related rights are supposed to protect in a democratic society.
“SERAP, therefore, considers the CAMA 2020 the most repressive legislation in Nigerian history, especially given the unlawful and impermissible restrictions contained in Part F of the Act. Sections 831, 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 of the Act are manifestly inconsistent with sections 36, 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.”