by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi 

Sensationalism, sectionalism, and tomfoolery are what have berthed strongly by Nigerian media space, and virtually every day, the news space is filled with fake news, quackery, and malevolent narratives that seek to further inflame the nerves of discord and division across Nigeria’s multi-cultural and multi-religious diversity. If that is not the order of the day, how do you explain 4 major media houses, within the space of a few months, publishing apologies to the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo; retracting stories that have sought to defame him, and shed him in the light of a corrupt public servant? The Vanguard, Businessday, Wazobia FM, and The Daily Sun are all guilty of this trend and have all apologised to the VP, for disseminating fabricated, derogatory and unsubstantiated reports on him. Apologies are in order, but the wildfire put out there keeps burning as the damage done by these very false stories continues with its malicious and damning consequences.

News headlines will not pay attention to landmark developments that are flooding Nigeria’s infrastructural landscape, but would rather create and concoct their own negative narratives, to drive sponsored agenda, around the happenings in the country. Attention will not be paid to the Federal Ocean Terminal at Onne, Rivers state, welcoming the largest ocean vessel to ever Dock at Nigeria’s seaports, in an effort to revitalise eastern seaports, and de-congest the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin-can. The headlines will not report the unprecedented 837 billion naira made as revenue by the Nigeria Customs service within just 6 months of operations. Media houses will not publicise and commend the 13 billion naira approved by PMB for community policing to bolster internal security and the fight against terrorism and banditry. On the contrary, their energies will be consumed by the invitation of Gov. Elrufai as speaker at the NBA conference, and subsequent odd withdrawal of same, in a move that reeks of religious and ethnic undertones that are with all intent, made to inflame and fan the fires of violence that have engulfed Southern Kaduna for over 25 to 30 years.

One other very novel development that has escaped due glory from the media is the signing into law, of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA 2020, by Mr. President. Not that it wasn’t captured in the news, but the query is that – negative views and outcry against the law, are the issues that are being rehashed constantly. On the contrary, the CAMA 2020 reforms will go a long way in toning down regulatory hurdles and ease the business environment. It makes business easier and cheaper for small and medium sized enterprises. Foremost among these new regulations of the CAMA 2020 is that it makes it possible for remote or virtual general meetings. This facilitates participation from any location at very minimal costs. It again provides for e-filing or electronic filing whereby electronic share transfer and e-meetings for private companies are possible. It also allows for merger of incorporated trustees whereby two or more associations with similar aims and objectives can come together as one legal entity which was not possible in the previous laws. The new CAMA 2020 law is seeing to the reduction of filing fees for registration of charges, such that the total fees payable to the CAC has been reduced to 0.35% of the value of the charge, leading to a 65% reduction of the associated cost payable under the previous law. The new CAMA also requires the disclosure of a person with significant control of companies in a register of beneficial owners to enhance corporate responsibility and transparency. For example if a company is seen as a puppet of a person, the veil of incorporation which keeps the members and the company as separate entities could be lifted on the grounds of equity. CAMA 2020 also provides business rescue provisions for insolvent companies by means of a framework that can rescue a company in distress and keep it alive, as against the situation where it is allowed to become insolvent. 

The Registrar General of the CAC, Alh. Garba Abubakar has assured that the new law was specifically designed to strengthen the legal framework to boost activities of medium and small scale enterprises. He has assured that the new law is not targeted at anyone, with regards to section C of the new law. He added that the CAC is not an autocratic organisation and so therefore; whatever measures taken to sanction any erring group or association, will have the approval of the ministry of trade and tourism, among other legal processes. 

What is not in doubt, is that CAMA 2020 will go a long way in helping with the fight against corruption. That armament is what is generating a lot of frenzy and commentary against the new law. As broken down by an expert on the new law and what it envisages for the new business environment, as well as for NGOs and religious organisations; Taiwo Oyedele explains thus: “Religious bodies and associations are now regarded as corporate bodies, and even according to the old law, their accounts must be audited. The new law empowers the CAC (by court order), to suspend the trustees of an association and appoint interim managers where it believes there has been any mismanagement or misconduct; or it is necessary or desirable to protect the properties of the NGO, or secure proper application of the property towards achieving its objectives, or in the case of fraudulent activities, or where the dissolution is in public interest.” He further explains that “other countries we have copied the CAMA laws from exercise these powers. He queries that since all organisations and religious bodies are incorporated on earth and not in heaven, so they must comply with rules and regulations just like other organisations.”

Leading voices vehemently opposed to the section C of the CAMA 2020 are church owners who have complied with the same laws as obtained overseas, where they own organisations and churches. The UK charities commission has had to appoint interim managers for Christ Embassy and Moutain of Fire Ministry at different times over issues bordering on mismanagement and misconduct. Some other owners are reported to have been banned from the UK over such issues of financial processes and governance. Reforms to regulations are essential in the empowerment of small businesses that account for a larger proportion of business entities which are necessary for a healthy business environment that can yield greater GDP growth. The CAC is doing well to position itself to better productivity in a challenging climate of evolving business processes. This is under an unfavorable climate of a pandemic that has limited its capacity, with only 15% of its human resources being deployed to serve numerous corporate needs of a struggling economy. CAMA 2020 could not have come at a better time. CAMA is not Karma!

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