The ACTION GROUP ON FREE CIVIC SPACE represents a loose network of over 85 organizations, student unions, social movements and active citizens across Nigeria, working on different thematic issues, but committed to ensuring that government regulation in the name of national security does not shrink the civic space in Nigeria. Civil society organizations, under the auspices of the Action Group on Free Civic Space have examined the newly-introduced legal provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, 2020. Deeply concerned about several provisions of the new law that hold enormous potential to restrict the civic space and limit constitutionally-protected freedoms, we make the following observations:
- CAMA 2020 establishes a new form of eminent domain. The recently-added provisions appear to be fixated on enlarging governmental powers to suspend and remove the trustees of an association, thereby taking over the administration or management the association’s property and bank credits.
- A number of the new CAMA provisions are punitive in nature. They confer excessive powers on the government to overly restrict or interfere with NPO operations.
- The Commission’s powers to unilaterally disrupt and displace the expressed intentions and aspirations of the members relegates the constitution or memorandum of an association, rendering it nugatory.
- By interfering with the rights of associations to associate and self-govern freely, Sections 838, 839 and 842 of CAMA 2020 contradict constitutionally-protected freedoms, particularly the freedom of association.
- The new functions of the Corporate Affairs Commission (the Commission) duplicates the roles of existing regulatory agencies charged with uncovering and punishing financial crimes such as the Special Control Unit Against Money Laundering (SCUML) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (“EFCC”).
- Compliance with the new rules will be onerous, time-consuming and possibly ineffective.