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We can regulate ourselves – lghele


General Superintendent, Holy Spirit Mission (Happy Family Centre) and the Chairman, Financial Accounting Governance Committee of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Bishop Charles Ighele, spoke to Adeola Ogunlade on the amended CAMA and the need for Christian bodies to self regulates. 

Whats’s your take on the CAMA ACT?

I have not really had time to read through the 600 page documents which contains the Company and Allied Matters Act of 2020, but I have gone through some sections of it. Generally, the aim of the law was to make doing business more pleasurable for people in business. The general aim is for ease in doing business. From what I have found out from the law, it contains some provisions which were not in the former law, which has been amended now. These provisions are okay, owing to advancement in technology, with the new law, you can hold a virtual general meeting through Zoom and it will be binding.

There is also provision for electronic filing of documents, which can be tendered in court and accepted, reduction of filing fees, provision to rescue businesses that are distressed, which is good; having a common seal is no longer compulsory, provision of a single member shareholder of a company, which makes it possible for just one man to be the shareholder of a company. These are provisions that are good. I believe that those who came up with this looked at what is obtainable in other countries and tried to make Nigeria to upgrade. That is the general intention of the law.

The aspect I don’t like however the aspect of treating churches like companies. That is not done anywhere in the world. Churches are not treated like companies; they are given some respect and honour. They are not seen as profit-making organizations. There is no way any Christian leader who really belongs to Jesus Christ will support the part of the act that has to do with churches.

The immediate cause of the review of that Act stemmed from the IPOB and it’s activities. The government is lamenting that because IPOB is registered, it became a challenge for the government to deregister the organization since the agenda they stated at the time they were registered is not the same as what they are doing today?

Well, if that is the excuse, it cannot be tenable. It is just like saying someone commits a crime and everybody in the country is arrested for the crime. If an organisation was registered and is not doing what it was registered for, then there should be a provision in the law to take the matter to court, then the CAC will now deregister that organisation. So, it goes beyond IPOB issue. When they are saying that they can suspend the trustees of a church and appoint new trustees for the church, I don’t know how that can work. These are spiritual bodies for God’s sake. This is not Oceanic or Intercontinental bank. These are not businesses but spiritual bodies.

If these bodies establish banks, then the same laws that apply to banks should be used on the banks established by such a church. The church as organisation should be left alone to be run the way the bible said it should be run. There is a way the bible said the church should be run and when any government official tries to do otherwise, it is not good at all. That person is kicking against the bricks. I don’t like it and no church leader should like this.

When you look at some other provisions of the act, it’s like the church is now under the control of the Registrar General of CAC, that shouldn’t be. The act also provides that these people can appoint interim manager or managers to operate the affairs of the church. That can’t be. It also states that any mismanagement of the affairs of the organisation or fraudulent behavior as far as the church is concerned, and then it is necessary to deal with such organization in public interest. But who determines public interest?

When you look at the law as it affects the church, you look at how Hitler, step-by-step removed people’s freedom in Germany. He did it in public interest, but what is public interest? The government has gotten it completely wrong, and as far as I am concerned, this law should be amended immediately. It came to us as a surprise. It was already out before I got to know about it, which is not fair at all. I believe that when a law is being made in a democracy, the people that the law should affect are supposed to be called upon to bring their input, it is called public hearing. A law like this should not be done the way it had been handled. It did not go through the process. This is like a coup by the government of Nigeria against the government of the church.

Churches in the western world are expected to be involved in essential service and members who are paying their tithe faithfully are given tax waivers, do you think that CAMA will help to achieve this in Nigeria?

If we are practicing democracy, let us copy the democracy in full. We are not practicing democracy here, we are still learning. Moreover different nations make certain laws that affect the church from their cultural background. Now, if you want to hold the church accountable financially, which is okay, my position, and am suggesting is that this law should not see the light of the day, it should be amended. Though, I don’t like the recklessness of some church leaders. You don’t spend tithe and offering as if is your money, if you do, you are a thief. If the church says, this is your financial entitlement as a pastor, so let it be, dipping your hands into the church fund is very wrong. I have been an advocate on this. I have been an advocate of registration of churches. I have been talking about this. The church should regulate itself. Just as Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Medical Association was register as an Act of Parliament in, Nigeria. If a doctor or a lawyer misbehaves, it is not the government that will deal with the lawyer, but the association. Then, government will now not recognize the doctor when his license has being withdrawn or suspended. Let there be an Act of Parliament for the church to regulate itself. So, these charlatans as pastor are kicked out. Every pastor should have a license. You cannot just come up and go and mess up people’s spiritual lives and marriages. It is not enough for anyone who think he has spiritual gifts and set up a church and mess up people’s spiritual lives and marriages. They should be order. Things cannot continue this way. We don’t have respect again as church leaders. Anyone can just come up and called him or herself pastor. It is on this premise that the presence leadership of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria sat over this matter and agreed that things are not okay at all. PFN has started the process of self-regulation.

….And you have been mandated to chair this process?

Yes, I am the chairman of the Financial Accounting Governance Committee. We have submitted our report and the President of PFN is to come up with how we can regulate ourselves. Please, leave us alone, we know how we can regulate ourselves and remove the bad eggs among us. This law should never be allowed to see the light of the day. It will affect both the Pentecostals and orthodox churches. If we keep quiet, we will do the church of God a great disservice.

Should the Christian Association of Nigeria go to court or put more pressure on the government to revoke the ACT

I am not a combatant. My own is to see solution to problem. I want solution to problem. Let there be discussion with the president. Let there be no fight or war concerning this matter. Let these things be resolve. I don’t think the President went through the 600 CAMA documents. Somebody somewhere might have infused it the sessions in contention into the document. Let me tell you, there is party politics. The next general election, it will become a major issue. During the past elections, some people were saying that APC has a Muslim agenda. I know they don’t have any Muslim agenda, it is just party politics. Now, the next campaign, it will be difference. The Act states that government can remove the General Overseer of a church. Those Christians who are saying that there is no Islamic agenda may be force to believe that there is one because no General Overseer of Head of Churches want the government to pick the member of the Board of Trustees, nor will they want government to set up a management body to manage the church. If this law is not amendment, there will be dangerous religious dimension in the next election. I can see all GO mobilizing their members to boycott the next election. So, to avoid such religious dimension, let those who love the President, let them put pressure that it should be remove. Let APC leaders put pressure on the Presidents to revoke this Act as it may stop their chances in the next general election. There is no way any church leader is going to support such law. It will not work. Politically, for the APC, it is suicided.

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