A judgement has been delivered by the federal high court in Abuja on a suit filed by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) against the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the minister of industry, trade and investment over the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020.
The suit has been dismissed by a federal high court sitting in Abuja.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 7 signed CAMA into law.
The law stipulates that religious bodies and charity organisations will be regulated by the registrar-general of the CAC and a minister.
CAMA 2020 provides 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 or in public interest.
Following the signing of the bill into law, CAN had in March 2021, filed a suit with the number FHC/ABJ/CS/244/2021 at the federal high court in Abuja, over the regulation.
The plaintiff had asked the court to determine “whether Section 839, subsections (1), (7) (a) and (10) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020, is inconsistent with Sections 4(8), 6(6)(b) and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) (as amended) which guarantees the plaintiff’s right to freedom of association and the right to seek redress in court”.
CAN had also asked for a ruling on “whether the provision of Section 854 of the CAMA is inconsistent with Section 39 of the CFRN which guarantees the right to freedom of expression,” among others.
Among the reliefs sought are “a declaration that Section 839(1), (7) (a) and (10) of the CAMA are inconsistent with Section 40 of the CFRN and thus unconstitutional, null and void”, and “a declaration that Section 839(1), (7) (a) and (10) of the CAMA are inconsistent with Section 4(8) of the CFRN and thus unconstitutional, null and void”.
During the proceedings, CAN had filed an application seeking to amend the originating summons and accompanying processes by replacing “Incorporated” with “Registered”, such that it would read, “The Registered Trustees of the Christian Association of Nigeria”, on the basis that the latter is the name on its certificate of incorporation.
According to CAN, the name difference was an error made during the drafting of the processes.
But the CAC had opposed the position of the religious body, noting that “The Incorporated Trustees of the Christian Association of Nigeria” is not recognised under CAMA, and that “the originating process of the plaintiff is incurably defective and cannot be cured by an amendment”.
“This court cannot by an order, breathe life on an otherwise lifeless and/or non-existent entity,” CAC said.
Ruling on the matter, Inyang Ekwo, the presiding judge, dismissed the suit over the failure of CAN to comply with the law on the name used in filing the originating summons.
“Further peruse shows that the certificate was issued under the regime of the Land (Perpetual Succession) Act, Cap. 98 of the 1958 LFN on 19th December, 1986. This means that the plaintiff was registered before CAMA first came into effect in 1990,” the judge ruled.
“With this evidence, it means the plaintiff can only sue and be sued in the name on the certificate issued to it on 19th December, 1986.
“There must be consequential order in the circumstance of this case. The originating processes in the name of ‘The Registered Trustees of Christian Association of Nigeria’ cannot stand.
“Similarly, it is my opinion that this ruling has therefore also resolved the issue in the preliminary objection of the 1st defendant too.
“I find that the plaintiff did not comply with the law in the name used in filing its originating summons. Therefore, this application lacks merit and ought to be dismissed and I hereby make an order dismissing same.”
According to the judge, the ruling on the application affects the foundation of the case considering the issues raised with the name by which the plaintiff commenced the matter.
“I therefore make an order striking out the entire case. This is the order of this court,” Ekwo said.