The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has written to President Muhammadu Buhari seeking the reversal of his assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA 2020) as part of measures to allay fears of Nigerians that the administration was allegedly bent on trampling citizens human right.
Also sought from the President include sending the legislation back to the National Assembly to address its fundamental flaws by deleting sections 839, 842, 843, 844, and 850 contained in Part F of the Act.
The organization argued that if not readjusted, some certain provisions of the legislation would be used by the authorities to exert extensive scrutiny over the internal affairs of associations through alleged intimidation and harassment.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, through the letter also urged Buhari to instruct the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice not to implement or enforce the CAMA 2020 until the legislation is repealed by the National Assembly and brought in line with the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“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.”
“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.”
“Similarly, freedom of association creates a forum for citizens in which they may freely seek, without any unlawful interference by the state, to move public opinion and achieve their goals. That “forum” cannot exist if the government is at liberty to treat one association as forming part of another or coercing one association to merge with another association.”
“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 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,” the letter said.
Kolawole added that implementing or enforcing some provisions of the legislation would have a significant chilling effect on legitimate activities of associations, and would seriously undermine their independence and operations.