Opponents of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), particularly some churches, can seek an amendment within the ambit of the law, a panelist at a virtual conference held last Saturday said.
The new CAMA bill was signed into law earlier this year to aid the ease of doing business, but has met stiff push back from some religious leaders, particularly Pentecostal pastors, mainly because of a provision in the law that empowers the registrar of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and a supervising minister to regulate religious bodies and charity organizations.
The conference was held to celebrate the publication of the book, ”The Philosophy of Nimi Wariboko: Social Ethics, Economy, and Religion,” and advance the conversation on the scholarship of its author, Mr Wariboko.
One of the sessions at the conference, “CAMA, Accountability and Governance in the Nigerian Pentecostal Church,” focused on the legal and moral controversies the CAMA has spurred in the shape of demanding accountability and transparency in the Nigerian church.
The session was moderated by Akin Ogundiran, a professor of African studies at the University of Carolina, with Benson Igboin, the Head of Department, Religion and African Culture, Adekunle Ajasin University, and Abimbola Adelakun, an assistant professor in the African Diaspora Department, the University of Texas, as panellists.
Ms Adelakun said the suspicion triggered by the law was somewhat justifiable especially because the government enforcing the law is not completely accountable and transparent in its dealings.
She noted that the opposition to the law speaks volume to the fear that it could weaken the “autonomy of the church,” and be used as a tool of witch-hunt against the church.
“It (CAMA) speaks volume to the lack of trust between the government and the people. It’s a question of defining autonomy. You are dealing with a government that is not opening its books. It is about the larger Nigerian socio-political issues,” Ms Adelakun said.
Citing the last chapter in Mr Wariboko’s book titled the “Logic of indivisibility,” Ms Adelakun explained that the doctrine of owing accountability to God rather than the people or the government is a major reason for the rejection of the probity law.
Meanwhile, she added, “(some) of these churches operate abroad within a milieu of accountability.”
On his part, Mr Igboin also said it was understandable that without recourse to the law, the government could use discretionary power with impunity.
But some, he said, believe the law was passed so as to tap into the financial buoyancy of the church especially because of the social impact projects of some churches.
“During the lockdown, some churches denoted (to help cushion the impact of COVID-19), and the government felt that there was money in the church without recourse to financial regulation,” he said.
Despite that, he surmised, “members of Pentecostal Churches are not ready to be accountable to the people, or to the government, but to God whom they claim appointed them.”
Nimigborueneboa Elekima Wariboko, or simply Nimi Wariboko, or NEW, a coinage from the combination of the first letters of his names, is a multidisciplinary theological scholar who has published eighteen monographs and co-edited four volumes.
He is poised to publish two books this year, one of which was presented last week Saturday, and currently co-editing three volumes of other books and a co-editor of Pneuma, a widely read journal of Pentecostal studies.
A Walter G. Muelder Professor of social ethics at Boston University, U.S., Mr Wariboko is also a financial and strategy consultant to the Nigerian government.
The book presented on Saturday was edited by Toyin Falola, a university teaching professor and humanities chair at the University of Texas, and the president of Pan-African University Press.
The book offers a transdisciplinary x-ray of Mr Wariboko’s work and how he fussed economics with culture and theology, especially the Christian faith.
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