SERAP Contemplates Court Action Over CAMA Act

Moses Ofodeme

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday, August 23, wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari demanding that he rescinds his assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA 2020) and to send the legislation back to the National Assembly.

According to SERAP, this includes redressing its fundamental flaws, including 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 organization also urged the president to instruct the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Garba Abubakar, and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami not to enforce the CAMA 2020.

This is until the legislation is repealed by the National Assembly, and brought in line with the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.

SERAP’s appeal was contained in a letter dated August 22, 2020, and signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare.

The organisation said with these 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 merge two associations without their consent as well as approval of their members.

Excerpt from the letter reads: “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.

“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.

“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 also to undermine the ideas that the right to freedom of association and related rights are supposed to protect in a democratic society.

“SERAP believes that the government granting itself the powers to suspend and remove trustees of legally registered associations and to take control of their bank accounts constitute an effective restraint on human rights.

“Allowing the government to take control of the bank accounts of association would impact on the rights of the associations; and also seriously undermine civil; cultural; economic; political; and social rights as a whole.

“Combatting fraud; mismanagement; corruption; money-laundering; and also other modes of trafficking by associations is legitimate.

“However, it is not sufficient to simply pursue a legitimate interest; limitations need also to be prescribed by law; and be necessary for a democratic society.

“These restrictions have no legal basis, as they fail to meet the requirements of legality; legitimacy; proportionality; and also necessity.

“SERAP considers the CAMA 2020 the most repressive legislation in Nigeria’s history; especially given the unlawful as well as 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 Constitution of Nigeria 1999.”

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