Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to “urgently rescind your assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020, [CAMA 2020], and to send the legislation back to the National Assembly to address its fundamental flaws, including by deleting the repressive 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 is also urging him to “instruct the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Alhaji Garba Abubakar, and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, not to implement or enforce the CAMA 2020 until the legislation is repealed by the National Assembly, and brought in line with the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.”
In the letter dated 22 August, 2020 and signed by SERAP 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 to merge two associations without their consent and approval of their members.”
According to SERAP, “Rather than taking concrete measures to improve the legal environment and civic space that would ensure respect for human rights and media freedom, your government has consistently pursued initiatives to restrict the enjoyment of citizens’ human rights. These rights are protected from impairment by government action.”
SERAP said: “These restrictions, coupled with repressive broadcasting codes and Nigerian security agencies’ relentless crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society, demonstrate the government’s intention to suppress and take over independent associations.”
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, 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.”
These restrictions have no legal basis, as they fail to meet the requirements of legality, legitimacy, proportionality and necessity. The Human Rights Council has called on States to ensure that any regulations of associations ‘do not inhibit the independence and functional autonomy [of associations]’”
“We have also sent a Pre-Action Notice of a lawsuit pursuant to Section 17 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, to the Corporate Affairs Commission to urgently initiate, promote and support deletion of Sections 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 and any other repressive provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020.