Federal High Court rules that CAC has no power to manage religious organisations

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja delivered a judgment Tuesday in which it stated that religious organisations and churches are not bound by certain provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).

These provisions concern the Commission’s power to suspend the trustees of religious organisations and replace them with interim managers, amongst others.

Hon. Justice Inyang Ekwo delivered the judgment in the matter between the Registered Trustees of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) v. The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment.

The Plaintiff was represented by a team of lawyers led by Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN. The team consisted of Prof. J. Amupitan SAN, Wale Adesokan SAN, Comfort Chigbue, Albert Uko, Godswill Iyoke, Emmanuel Ekong, Rev. Fr. Joseph Ilorah, Oluniyi Adediji, Darlington Onyekwere, Lamar Joe-Kyari Gadzama, Onyekachi Eluwa and Melissa Ifunanya Okeke.

The crux of the suit was the determination of the application of Sections 839(1)(7a)(10), 842(1)&(2), 843 and 851 of CAMA as well as Regulations 28, 29, 30 and 38 of the Companies Regulations 2021 (CR) to registered trustees of religious organisations.

These provisions give the Commission the power to suspend the trustees of an incorporated trustee and appoint an interim manager.

They also give the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment (The Minister), the power to make regulations as to the letters, characters, signs or symbols and punctuation that may be used in the name of an incorporated trustee under CAMA.

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The Justice agreed with the Plaintiffs in their submission and delivered judgment in their favour stating that the provisions of CAMA which empower the Commission to suspend the trustees of a religious organization or a church and appoint an interim manager are unconstitutional and subvert the very objective of the establishment of religious organisations and churches.

He stated that desiring a corporate personality and it’s attendant benefits is the sole reason for religious organisations and churches to register under extant laws.

The Justice went on to hold that the Plaintiff in the suit was incorporated to protect the religious expression of its members and in order to fulfill this objective, it would be improper for a church to be administered by a secular interim manager.

On the power of the Minister to make regulations as to the letters, other characters, signs or symbols and punctuation that may be used in the name of an incorporated trustee, the Justice stated that religious symbolism and iconography have been used for a long time by all religions in the world.

They represent the relationship between man and the sacred realms. The powers of the Minister under CAMA will affect the sacredness of the mystery of divine institutions.

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