Nigeria now has two government agencies with the initials, FRCN, an abbreviation that used to be the preserve of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. The new one is a regulatory body known as Financial Regulatory Council of Nigeria, a very unusual and strange situation but that’s not what is important.
Christians are crying out on why and how a government that has more than enough problems to grapple with would rather be meddling in the hierarchical set-ups in Churches and stipulating terms of tenure for the leaders in a supposedly secular country.
Below is the version of the unfolding story as carried by Punch because meanwhile, the president is reported to be “reconstituting” the board of this new agency.
Why, for God’s sake, does Nigeria need a government agency that would further the persecution of Christians even as hundreds are being killed in parts of the country, including Southern Kaduna, home to millions of Christians – without any appreciable response by government?
Governance code: Minister, FRCN boss clash over Adeboye, others – [Nigeria] Punch
There are strong indications that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, and the Executive Secretary of the Financial Regulatory Council of Nigeria, Mr. Jim Obazee, are currently engaged in a face-off over an FRCN regulation, which stipulates 20 years tenure for heads of religious groups and civil society groups in the country.
The PUNCH reliably gathered in Abuja on Sunday that the minister had written the FRCN boss, directing him to suspend the implementation of the controversial regulation.
But it was learnt that Obazee defied the instruction of the minister, insisting that the implementation of the regulation would go ahead.
Findings showed that Obazee said the implementation of the regulation could not be suspended because there was no gazette that indicated that it had been amended or suspended.
It was gathered that though the minister’s letter to the FRCN boss was written on October 17, 2016, the council had insisted on the resignation of heads of other affected groups.
The General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, had, on Saturday, announced Pastor Joseph Obayemi, as the new leader of the church in Nigeria.
The G. O. made the announcement at the church’s annual ministers’ thanksgiving held at the Redemption Camp in the Mowe area of Ogun State.
He cited a government regulation, which stipulates mandatory office tenure for general overseers of all registered churches, as the reason for the restructuring.
Adeboye had said the regulation would also be extended to clergymen such as Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church Worldwide International aka Winners Chapel; Pastor W. F. Kumuyi of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry and Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission.
A source in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, who confided in The PUNCH, confirmed that the minister had written the Executive Secretary of the FRCN, directing him not to execute the regulation.
He stated, “There is an issue with the new code of corporate governance and the minister wrote the Financial Reporting Council and told the council not to execute it because a lot of people from the private sector have complained about it.
“So the minister wanted to look into it and see what the issues were. He (FRC boss) was asked not to go ahead with executing it. There is a controversy on that FRC issue and we are now looking into the matter to know what the issues are before we can finally take a decision. This is where the matter is currently.”
But a source in the FRCN, who spoke on Sunday on condition of anonymity, said the organisation would not heed the directive of the minister on the code.
The source added, “The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment wrote a letter to us saying that he didn’t want the code to be effective now and that he wanted it to be suspended for now.
“But you know in government circles, particularly in the public sector, when you are suspending something, you back it up with a paper – a gazette and all of that, but as it is now, there is no gazette.
“It must have a gazette, indicating that the law has been suspended. There is no gazette to that effect that this law has been suspended. So as it is now, the code has not been suspended because there is no gazette to that effect and that is where we are now.
“The code has been on naturally, right from (ex-President Goodluck) Jonathan’s time and this has been over four years. When the code was being done, we engaged all the stakeholders and their presentations formed part of what was in the code at the end of the day.
“The only people that took the matter to court were the churches and they lost. It was on the day they lost that our legal adviser said ‘okay, we could go ahead and release the code and that if we don’t release this code, other bodies will go to court to challenge it’.
“The private sector came to us three weeks ago and they told us the sections they wanted amended and we told them that we will look at it when we are doing what we call fine-tuning.”
When asked if the code was still effective, he said, “The code is still on as it stands now. All the banks are complying with the codes. If it has been suspended, why are they complying with it. The churches don’t want it and that was why they went to court and they have lost.
“So, the law is still in force. Mr. President is aware of this issue and he has not issued any directive to stop the law.”
Law created to weaken the church, says CAN official
Meanwhile, an official of the Christian Association of Nigeria, on Sunday, said the law, regulating the tenure of the heads of not-for-profit and religious organisations, was created to weaken the church in the country.
He said although the government was hiding under the “good motive” to regulate the excesses of those organisations in Nigeria and ensure prudent management of offices and resources, there were ulterior motives behind the law.
The National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, CAN, Kwamkur Samuel, said this in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja on Sunday.
He argued that a similar law, which compelled churches in Nigeria to surrender their mission schools, built by missionaries and churches to government, had been introduced in the past.
Samuel stated, “From the look of the law, it seems to have been enacted with a good motive to regulate the excesses of not-for-profit organisations in Nigeria and ensure prudent management of offices and resources.
“But in practical terms, we feel strongly that the law is targeted at weakening the church in Nigeria and ensure that the generals of the church, who have the vision of developing the church, are pulled off to make churches and members vulnerable to attacks.
“It is difficult for the church to keep quiet on such laws.
MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2017. 6:17 p.m. [GMT]