Yiaga Africa has kicked off its advocacy against obnoxious legislation in Nigeria with a stakeholder roundtable to review the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 in a bid to ensure further legislation. The roundtable brought together stakeholders from Corporate Affairs Commission, Academics and Civil Society Organisations to identify gaps in the CAMA 2020 assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2020.

During the meeting held on Wednesday in Abuja, Yiaga Africa presented its analysis of the CAMA 2020, where it identified certain provisions capable of derogating from citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights, including how the Act affects non-state actors especially NGOs, religious and traditional institutions. The analysis revealed that the CAMA 2020 has been rightly hailed as a huge improvement on the 1990 version, as it promotes the ease of doing business and seeks to promote accountability in certain sectors hitherto left at the whims and caprices of certain individuals.

However, the analysis also revealed noticeable poor drafting of some sections of the Act, provisions capable of derogating from citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights, including how the Act affects non-state actors especially NGOs, religious and traditional institutions can be interpreted as unlawful and not in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

In her remark, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programs, Cynthia Mbamalu said the CAMA 2020 was passed without due advocacy and thus it came to citizens as a surprise. According to her, “the CAMA 2020 has some provisions that we believe threaten the existence of non-profit organisations under which Civil Society Organisations and even media organisations exist.” She categorically made reference to some sections under part F of the Act which said it is a potential threat to the existence of Non-profit organisations.

She however said, “the fact a law is passed doesn’t mean it cannot be amended and we believe there is always the opportunity to review our law in tandem with democratic principles, that they protect and guarantee rights and they truly ensure effective planning for the future of our democracy”. This meeting according to her provides an opportunity to further engage the legislative arm of government to further review the Companies and Allied Matters Act.

Yiaga Africa through its analysis presented by Dr. Godwin Malasowe recommended the unbundling of corporate law into smaller and perhaps more effective independent components. Dr. Malasowe also urged the National Assembly to consider the unbundling of the (CAMA 2020) into smaller legislation for effective corporate management and better corporate practice in Nigeria.

In his reaction, Assistant Director at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) Tolulope Shonike provided some clarity urging citizens to take some time to read through the act saying the commission would have seen that there are sufficient safeguards in the acts”. He also said that the fear that interim managers may sell properties does not arise at all.

He said, “CAMA 2020 is the largest piece of legislation in Nigeria, so it is not out of place that you will find one or two things that may be a concern,” he said. “We have noted a lot of these complaints. Let me state here that before the bill became law, there was extensive engagement with stakeholders. This effort started in 2004, and it took between that time and 2020 to become law,” he stated.