“The law, to say the least, is unacceptable, ungodly, reprehensible, and an ill-wind that blows no one any good. It is a time bomb waiting to explode,” said a statement by Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, the Special Assistant on Media and Communications) to CAN President, Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle.
In its statement on Thursday, CAN made clear that its grouse was not with efforts by the government to fight corruption but a section of the Act that contained what it said amounted to an attempt to bring churches under government control.
“The satanic section of the controversial and ungodly law is Section 839 (1) &(2) which empowers the Commission to suspend trustees of an association (in this case, the church) and appoint the interim managers to manage the affairs of the association for some given reasons,” it said.
“While we are not against the government fighting corruption wherever it may be found, we completely reject the idea of bringing the Church, which is technically grouped among the NGOs, under control of the government. The Church cannot be controlled by the government because of its spiritual responsibilities and obligations.”
Based on its position, the association expects the federal government to change course and amend the law.
It said, “This is why we are calling on the Federal government to stop the implementation of the obnoxious and ungodly law until the religious institutions are exempted from it.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently return the law to the National Assembly for immediate amendment. Nigeria should not be compared with any other nation when it comes to the relationship between religious institutions and the government. In Nigeria, people’s religions are tied to their humanity and of course, their life.”
Should the government insist on implementing the law, CAN believes it would amount to an affront to Christianity.
“If the government is bent on imposing a law on us which the entire Church in Nigeria is against, then, they have declared war on Christianity and the agenda to destroy the Church which we have spoken against before now is coming to the open more clearly,” it said.
“If you cannot give us good amenities of life, we would not allow you to take away our liberty to worship our Maker.”
CAN is surprised that President Buhari signed the CAMA Bill into law with such a section in it because it had initially rejected moves to bring the church under government regulation during the President’s first term.
It said, “We recall that during the first term of the President, there was a public hearing conducted by the National Assembly on the Non- Governmental Organisations Bill tagged ‘Bill for an Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission For The Supervision, Co-ordination And Monitoring Of Non-Governmental Organisations’ which was attended by CAN and many NGOs.
“At the Public Hearing, the Bill that sought to bring the religious organisations and NGOs under the control and influence of the government was totally rejected because it would snuff life out of the church and rank the church as a secular institution under secular control.
“We thought it was all over until we heard of the CAMA that was assented to by the President, making the rejected bill a law.”
Defending its position against the law, CAN questioned what right the government had to control an institution it did not establish.
It is also concerned about the implication of allow secular officials to superintend over spiritual matters, arguing that, ultimately, the government had specific responsibilities to focus on.
“How can the government sack the trustee of a church which it contributed no dime to establish? How can a secular and political minister be the final authority on the affairs and management of another institution which is not political? it asked.
“For example, how can a non-Christian head of Government Ministry be the one to determine the running of the church? It is an invitation to trouble that the government does not have power to manage.
“Let the government face the business of providing infrastructure for the people. Let them focus on better health provision, food, education, adequate security employment, etc. The government should not be a busy body in a matter that does not belong to it. The government does not have the technical expertise to run the church of God because of its spiritual nature.”