A federal high court in Abuja has held that some sections of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, (CAMA) 2020 violate the fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens.
Delivering judgement in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1076/2020, James Omotosho, presiding judge, nullified sections 839, 842, 843, 844, 845, 846, 847, 848 and 851 of CAMA 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, on August 7, signed CAMA into law.
Emmanuel Ekpenyong, an Abuja-based lawyer, had instituted a suit challenging the Act.
In the originating summons dated and filed on August 31, 2020, Ekpenyong prayed the court to determine whether the provisions of sections 839, 842, 843, 844, 845, 846, 847, 848 and 851 of the CAMA Act, “infringe on the plaintiff’s right to thought conscience, and religion as enshrined in section 38 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)”.
The mentioned sections (challenged by the plaintiff) of the CAMA, provide that the commission may, by order, suspend the trustees of an association or a religious body and appoint an interim manager or managers, to coordinate its affairs in the event of misconduct or mismanagement in the public interest.
It also gives the commission powers to direct banks to disclose and transfer standing credit in any dormant account of an association, irrespective of secrecy or non-disclosure agreement.
The Act also mandates associations to submit biannual statements of affairs, accounting records, and personal information of trustees etc.
The lawyer submitted that the sections violate his right to freedom of association.
In a counter affidavit dated and filed January 20, 2021, the CAC, through its counsel, Olasoji Olowolafe, described the suit as “an abuse of judicial process.”
They prayed the court to dismiss the suit, adding that the case was not backed by any credible evidence.
In its own preliminary objection, the national assembly contended that the suit was incompetent because a pre-action notice was not served on them and that the plaintiff had no locus standi.
In the judgment, Omotosho held that under Article 3 (e) of the Preamble to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, anyone could bring fundamental human rights matters in his own interest, on behalf of another person or even in the public interest.
He held that under the new human rights regime, a court shall not dismiss a human rights action for mere want of locus standi.
The judge further held that the sections infringed on conscience and religion, as enshrined in section 38 of the constitution. It also infringed on the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, enshrined under Section 40 of the constitution.
SUIT BY CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA
In a similar suit, the Christian Association Nigeria (CAN) had challenged some sections of the CAMA 2020.
On March 21, Inyang Ekwo, an Abuja federal high court judge, restrained the CAC from suspending or appointing trustees of the Christian association and the churches.
Ekwo, in that judgment, held that the provisions of sections 17 (1), 839 (1) and (7) (a), 842 (1) and (2), 851 and 854 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020 and Regulations 28, 29 and 30 of the Companies Regulations (CR), 2021 were not applicable to CAN, the churches and other religious body.
Source: The Cable