Today, on George’s Diary, I want to weigh into the trending discussion on the new CAMA bill that was signed into law on 7th August in Nigeria. It has been very controversial and I think one of the things that gave rise to the controversy is because it was signed into law by a president who is very famous being undemocratic and without regard to human rights. In fact, it has been noted that he has disobeyed court orders on many grounds.

The new law is as follow:

“Section 839 (1) empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association and appoint

interim managers to manage the affairs of the association where it reasonably believes that-

(a) There is or has been misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the association;

(b) it is necessary or desirable for the purpose of;

i. Protecting the property of the association

ii. Securing a proper application for the property of the association towards achieving the objects of the association, the purpose of the association of that property or of the property coming to the association,

iii. Public interest; or

(c) the affairs of the association are being run fraudulently.

Before I go into details with other things, let me point our attention to some answers in this law that we are overlooking. The trustees of any non profit association can only be suspended by a court order as a result of a petition of the Commission or members of the association and there must be reasonable evidence. You can find this in the subsection 2 of section 839 of the CAMA bill.

Listening to the critics of CAMA, one would think it’s a bill that applies only to Churches and other Christians organisations. However, CAMA doesn’t apply to Churches only, it applies to Mosques, NGOs and every organisation registered as Charity under the Coporate Affairs Commission. Most critics of this bill are speaking out of hearsay, they haven’t studied the bill.

If you don’t want the law to apply to you, don’t register with CAC. But if you don’t register with CAC, you also have no right to sue any organisation for impersonating you and another organisation can sue you if they register a name you have been using before them. The law court may also to some extent never recognize your organisation. Damages may be awarded to the other in the process and you’d be the looser in the end.

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If you also don’t want it to apply to you but you want register with CAC to protect your organisation, then you would register as a profit organization which will also mean that you have to spell out how you make money with your business. By this, you have declared that you are a business organisation, you will be subject to tax and so on and of course, you’ll be treated like a business. It would be a sole proprietary or one with shareholders. We have may something like “The Church of Christ Ltd” and the Church business would be up on the stock exchange market.

Talking about tax exempt which applies to NGOs and charities, some have questioned why Churches are required to have TIN which means Tax Identification Number. Let me say something about it…

Although non-profit organizations which includes Churches, Mosques and so on are exempted from paying tax, they are required by law to file documents with FIRS. These processes are what technically protects the organisations from being taxed. You’ll understand and appreciate this more if you are in a country that have created a near perfect taxing system and documentation like the United Kingdom. This is usually done to protect the organisation even though people can penetrate the loopholes to get at some leaders or the organisation in general.

Isn’t that what lawyers do by the way? Lawyers often don’t seek justice, especially defendants, they look around the law to find loopholes and exonerate their clients. The human solution is not perfect and often times we will never see the loopholes in a law until we start operating that law. CAMA will be refined eventually if we have leaders whose motives are pure. However, the only condition wherr section 839 (1) can apply to organisations is when there is misconduct and mismanagement in administration. These misconduct and mismanagement in administration can be argued in the court of law.

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Just as being non-profit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t register with CAC, being NGO also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t file documents with FIRS. The reason NGOs are exempted from tax is because they carry out charitable duties. Indirectly, we can say they are paying their tax via charity. Individuals can also be exempted from tax when they carry out enough charity. Jesus said

“Give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser” which in other words means “pay your tax to relevant authorities”

NGOs, Mosques, Churches and other Charities aren’t being done a favor by being exempted from tax, they are paying their dues already indirectly because they do a lot of Charity. Even the early Church engaged in lots of Charity and it is a tradition we must follow. The Church fellowship centers are not meant to be for profit in the sense that eaders run it like a secular business where the aim is to make more money. It’s a kingdom business where the aim is to reach more souls and introduce Jesus to them and the salvation he brings.

To protect Churches and Mosques as an organization, (this applies to all NGOs) documents are filed by the organization to show they truly qualify for tax exempt. In turn, they also get Tax Identification Number (some call it Employer Identification Number). Should they want to prove they qualify for TAX exempt in the future, the TIN serves that purpose. TIN is just a file number where information of the organization as regards tax is stored.

Few months back, I developed a website for a socio-cultural group. While configuring the payment gateway of the website, TIN among other things were major requirements that they must provide as those documents must be submitted before they can start receiving payments from the website. This makes it easy for financial reports and auditing.

The idea of CAMA is not actually to harm these organisations but to protect them and promote their interest. For example, in the case that a leader of a charity organisation is sucking away the resources of that organisation, the CAMA bill ensures that the suspect is blocked from carrying out further transactions, it doesn’t disqualify the suspect from playing his or her role like in churches as a Pastor or in Mosques as an Imam but it sets up a means to protect the leaking purse of the organisation by appointing an interim manager.

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This interim manager does not have a say to the shape of the ministry and he is appointed only for a short time. These can only be done upon petition by members of the association or the commission as stipulated by the law, a concrete evidence and approval from the court.

For example, Pastor Tunde is fraudulently siphoning Church’s fund and members of the association or the commission files a petition. Pastor Tunde will not be removed as a Pastor by a court order, the commission will not bring in someone else to head the ministry or preach. The activities of Pastor Tunde’s Church will continue as usual, there isn’t any form of disruption. The commission or members of the Church will seek approval from court to appoint a interim managers to manage the affairs of the association only in the regards of “conduct, financial and administrative management”. To “manage” in this regard doesn’t mean to run or direct the organization. This is done to the Church as an organization, not as a ministry.

One would ask, but is it biblical? I don’t think that question is necessary. It is an ignorant question. Being exempted from TAX is also not biblical. In fact, in the scheme of how it was designed, we would pay tax and still do charity which is more of a sacrifice. We would also ask if registering with CAC is biblical, if naming Christian gatherings is biblical or if having marriage class and running premarital test is biblical.

With all that has been said, enemies will always seek loopholes in these laws to get at organisations. However, we shouldn’t see it as an antichrist law when it has to do with not just Churches but Mosques, all religious centres, NGOs, Charities, Civil Societies and other non-profits. You have every every right to criticize things but you must do so from an informed position.

By Onyedikachukwu Nnadozie

George is a brand strategist at Funtrick Technology, an author and a public speaker. He takes time to write on George's Diary. He also writes his opinions on politics and similar subject on Gist Afrique.

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