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The Suspended Corporate Governance Code And Government’s Relationship With Religious Organisations

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Controversies were recently generated by the Corporate Governance Code by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRC, enforced by the now ousted Executive Secretary of the agency, Mr. Jim Obazee. This was as the suspended regulation sought to limit the tenure of leaders of religious organisations and other non-profit organisations to 20 years or 70-years age limit.

Concerns heightened after the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, complied with the code by stepping down as the GO of the RCCG in Nigeria, appointing a new National Overseer, following which he stepped into the role of Worldwide Overseer of the redeemed church.

Many have argued that the code is at variance with the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and conscience, even as others maintain that any law that will in any way tamper with the faith of Nigerians is not needed, considering that religion has remained a very touchy issue in the country.

It was alleged that the enforcement of the corporate governance code was to weaken the church and polarize the leadership of churches, so that other religions can gain an advantage over it. Those with this view predicate their argument on the premise that the ownership and mode of establishing churches differ from that of mosques, hence the latter would consolidate as churches get embroiled in the ensuing leadership squabble to be caused by the stepping down of general overseers who have stayed over 20 years or are above 70 years of age.

This supposition cannot entirely be dismissed from the system at a time when crises linked to religion have claimed thousands of lives and led to the destruction of property worth billions of naira in parts of the country.

The incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen, killing of persons over alleged blasphemy and for openly evangelising as well as the ongoing crisis in Southern Kaduna seem to give flesh to the purported aim behind the implementation of the code, even though the enforcer, Obazee, is a Christian.

THEWILL supports the existing regulation, which makes churches to be registered under the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC. We also believe that religious bodies should be regulated to weed out bad eggs who feed fat on gullible worshippers. But it is absolutely unnecessary and ridiculous for government to dictate how and when leaders of religious bodies get appointed or quit.

To subject churches and other religious institutions to the Corporate Governance Code like corporate organisations is an unwarranted interference in spiritual matters, which is ecclesiastical and beyond human comprehension.

The number of years that a General Overseer spends in a church which he/she has a divine mandate to establish or lead cannot be determined by secular regulations. If, therefore, we acknowledge that church heads had specific calling from God for their assignment, including life leadership, it would be counter-productive to use physical sensory to regulate a largely unknown spiritual world.

The recent position canvassed by the Supreme Head of the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement, Prophet Samuel Abidoye, at a press conference in Lagos is relevant in this context. He said: “Every minister of God is ordained under divine commission and remains in office at the pleasure of the Almighty God whose throne endures forever as could be confirmed by the biblical accounts”.

Besides, allegations that some church members, including Obazee who used to be a zonal pastor of RCCG, selfishly designed the law to dislodge the church’s leadership, make it necessary that the Federal Government completely scrap the law. The state must remain detached from the order of religious organisations, as the forceful removal of a church’s head can affect the faith of many members being mentored by that religious leader.

THEWILL sees no reason why the former Executive Secretary of the FRC would go against the directive of his supervisory minister – the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, that implementation of the regulation be suspended. We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his timely intervention in sacking Obazee, even though it is being reported that the sack has nothing to do with Adeboye’s action.

Obazee ought to have known that peace, security and societal stability were more paramount than a law, which is bound to cause more disaffection in an already-tensed country. Also, his defiance of his boss’ directive and insistence that there was no gazette to warrant the suspension of the code only highlighted the ulterior motive in the haste to give bite to the controversial law.

THEWILL urges the Federal Government to amend the law in a manner that while religious organisations are made to be more transparent in their financial dealings, the tenure of founders, imams, and general overseers as well as how those who succeed them emerge are left unchecked by the government.

Meanwhile, we implore those privileged to occupy positions of authority not to abuse their offices by displaying vendetta or pursuing narrow interests, which may end up giving one religion undue advantage over the other. Nigeria must remain a secular state, where government’s interference in the activities of religious organisations must be very minimal.

 — Culled from The Will


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