By Felix Khanoba
The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) has called on religious bodies and other non-governmental organisations to stop describing the 2020 Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) as evil, saying the new law, which is not targeted at any group, would ensure full transparency in the running of registered associations.
The Registrar-General of CAC, Garba Abubakar, who stated this against the backdrop of insinuations and criticisms that CAMA 2020 is loaded with ulterior motives and anti-Christian agenda, said the law is only aimed at ensuring more robust business environment and financial accountability in registered associations.
President Muhammed Buhari signed the CAM Bill into law 24 July, 2020 and it is expected to come into force after its gazette by the National Assembly a few weeks from now. The Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) has already rejected the amended law, describing it as “a time bomb waiting to explode.”
But speaking at a retreat jointly organised by CAC and the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) in Abuja on Friday, Garba said only those with skeletons in their cupboard should be afraid of the provisions of the new CAMA, especially in areas that border on mandatory publication of financial records and power to suspend incorporated trustee.
“On the provision on suspension of trustees, the law has clearly stated grounds for suspension. It has talked about misconduct or mismanagement of the property of the association. It has talked about fraud; it has talked about public interest.
“Public interest may be wide, I agree but one thing I want to make clear is that the power (to suspend) is not absolute. Section 839 sub-section 7 provides for enquiries.
“So before anybody would be suspended he would be heard. And it is only when his explanation is not satisfactory, that he will be suspended and even after he is suspended, he can challenge that decision in court.”
The CAC boss said associations that are not willing to be subjected to the new regulatory oversight of the Commission are free to withdraw their registration.
“Associations can operate without registration. Anybody that feels he doesn’t want to be within the regulatory purview can dissolve the association. You don’t have to register if you are an association; there is freedom of association,” Garba said.
Speaking further at the retreat, which has its theme as ‘Covid-19 Pandemic and New Reforms Initiatives by CAC,’ the Registrar General said the new law now makes mandatory for registered associations to maintain a day to day income and expenditure account, which is expected to be made available at the end of each year.
“The law imposes an obligation on banks to inform the Commission where any account of any association has been dormant for a period of five years and once they give that information, no transaction would be allowed in that account without notification….
“The law has also given CAC the right, that when an association’s account is dormant (for a certain period), to give a directive to transfer the balance to another association with similar objective,” he said.
The Commission’s boss said the new CAMA has also made ease of doing business a priority as the services of legal practitioner is no longer a requirement to register a business even as one person can now duly form a limited liability company.
Earlier, the President of CICAN, Mr Fred Idehai, called on CAC to put in place measures that would boost the activities of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) when issuing guidelines for the operation of the new CAMA.
“CAC should assist our MSMEs to be able to register their businesses with ease and at reasonable fees in order for them to thrive and create jobs for the people, thereby reducing the level of unemployment and poverty in the country,” Idehai said.