By Oladipupo Jimoh, International Liaison Personnel, Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard [Nigerian Section of the RCIT], 02.09.2020. http://www.revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com/
The Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) was just recently amended and signed into law by the Buhari regime. The law which was first promulgated in 1990 is meant to deal with the modus operandi of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the regulatory body under which firms, business, corporations and NGO’s must legally register before they can carry out commercial operations. A considerable portion of the liberal left and petty bourgeois stratum have praised the new law to the skies claiming that it will help small and medium scale enterprises (SME’s) to thrive more and reduce unemployment by encouraging start-ups. Basking in the applause, president Buhari has gone ahead to name the new CAMA as one of the achievements of his administration since re-election last year.
Many left wing apologists and comrades also smile behind the scenes particularly because of Section 839 of the said law as it tightens or increases “regulations” on religious bodies specifically churches because to these leftists it is part of the inevitable recompense that the thieving church overseers will face. Those leftists who do not cheer it on surreptitiously keep mum about the seemingly progressive law because they have reduced themselves to bourgeois electioneering parties. When considering actual facts, the controversial section 839 is anything but progressive as we shall soon see but before we take a closer look let us first weigh the argument for the so-called small and medium scale enterprises (SME’s) and start-ups.
Any Real Benefits for SME’S?
The new law makes some technical changes with businesses no doubt. These include the ease to register a business or start-up even through online means; the ability to register from any part of the country and with a conducive amount of partners etc., These changes have zero effect on ameliorating the economic recession and the resulting hazards that the same government has wrought through the COVID-19 emergency measures which in turn led to colossal job losses, mass lay-offs, and the collapse of many businesses. Apart from these, the same ruling class at all governmental strata have attacked the most impoverished plebs through evictions and by demolishing their homes, markets and business premises. Price hikes have also been seen for basic services such as fuel, electricity tariff, all of which, coupled with the devaluation of the naira, have led to crippling inflation. All these factors combine to narrow the chances of having a start-up, even if such a start-up could begin it may barely thrive.
Irrespective of the current aggravated state of the aforementioned developments, the changes that should affect SME’s in the new law have no real bearing on the over 21 million informal workers, petty traders, peasants, artisans who have not formally registered their businesses and who cannot understand what benefit an online form of registration could bring as they have been doing their businesses through community arrangements and house to house cooperation.
Since the new law is almost meaningless for the imaginary SME’s to which it refers, it must have a latent motive which bolsters the interests of the leading monopoly capitalists. In times of economic crises as these such interests can only be increased expansion and control. This tendency is most lucidly embodied in the most controversial Section 839 of the new law:
(1) empowers the Commission (CAC) to suspend trustees of an association and appoint interim managers to manage the affairs of the association where it reasonably believes that-
(a) There is or has been misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the association;
(b) it is necessary or desirable for the purpose of;
i. Protecting the property of the association
ii. Securing a proper application for the property of the association towards achieving the objects of the association, the purpose of the association of that property or of the property coming to the association,
iii. Public interest; or
(c) the affairs of the association are being run fraudulently.
(2) (i) The trustees shall be suspended by an order of Court upon the petition of the Commission or Members consisting of one-fifth of the association, and the petitioners shall present all reasonable evidence or such evidence as requested by the Court in respect of the petition.
The first question that comes to mind is how does the Commission determines when it is “necessary or desirable” for the purposes listed above to the point that it could petition the court to change a member of the Board of Trustees of a given association. Such arbitrary powers could mean the Registrar General of the Commission can side with party that promotes the business interests of Nigerian moguls during a dispute in an association. This new found legal unction can be used to subordinate small corporations to the bigger ones or liquidate them altogether. Some have argued that the new authority given the Registrar General is not so far-reaching since he must still resort to the courts before his wishes can be actualised. This is a by-word for lifeless text book democracy as we all know how bodies in government and administration always get on the good side of the judges and when they don’t they can go ahead to flaunt court orders without reprise. In fact, court or no, the direct intervention of the CAC in changing the leadership of a said company or corporation is tantamount to meddlesomeness.
However these are still wanderings around the peripheries of the bone of contention, the real icing on the cake is that religious bodies especially churches and other NGO’s fall under the ambit of this law, some even say they are the main target. A good number of the billionaire pastors have vituperatively vilified the law and threatened to challenge it by legal and all means available. The most vocal amongst them, Pastor David Oyedepo, who is rumoured to be the richest pastor in the world, and is an apologist of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) claims that the law is a ploy to further divide the nation along ethno-religious lines by attacking the Christian bodies. His accusation is partly correct as one cannot separate the latest moves of the ruling cabals from the background upon which they have conducted their oppressive business for decades.
CAMA as A Weapon of State Bonapartist Traction
What this law represents can be summarized into 3 highlights that can be expressed in different terms but are essentially the same or go hand in hand:
1. To create a false sense of progress with things like online registration for businesses and
2. remove, at the same time, old legal hurdles which restrict the capitalist magnates from undue expansion so that they can
3. have increased control over the economic space through state intervention.
These are features of the mature state bonapartist posture of the Buhari regime respectively the Nigerian ruling class in this time of economic upheaval. This posture is more of a chauvinist state bonapartism and this shift from neo-liberal to bonapartist capitalism is necessary because large channels of wealth accumulation collapse or are blocked so the only way out is further expansion through more or less direct state intervention.
Other Offshoots of State Bonapartism in Nigeria
Early signs of this shift have already surfaced, first, with the circular released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) when the commercial banks were laying off workers by the thousands. Another early sign during the lockdown was the disclaimer of the Nigerian Army when the repressive apparatus of the state was killing more people than the actual virus did. Anyone who doubts the chauvinist state bonapartist nature of the present capitalist period need only look at the escalating tensions between the two leading imperialist of the East and West—China and US. In the same way, tensions have also heightened between Turkey and Greece, and all states in general.
An example far closer home is the consistent threats of Nigerian businesses in Ghana which shows that the Ghanaian business proprietors are also looking for leeway but are afraid of the retaliatory effects their actions may bring. Shoprite a mall corporation owned by South African big business is threatening to leave Nigeria. It is this same drive that has led the government at various levels to enter a frenzy of demolitions and destructions of the homes, markets and make-shift businesses of the poor so that they can take over with more profitable ventures. So we may see the informal workers that have escaped the recent rampage being forced to register with the new CAMA law.
Lastly, the can of worms of gargantuan corruption and graft has been opened of recent within the government especially between the ministers and the National Assembly (NASS) mostly on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where over 81 billion naira was mismanaged. Many left groups have tried to give explanations for these revelations however the only wholesome motive for this is the urge to get more money as the original sources are depleting making them resort to probes and investigations even though the senators in NASS are partners in crime. A similar event can be seen in the exposure of the corrupt practises of Wirecard and the arrest of Nigerian born veteran fraudster and cyber-criminal Raymond Abass (Hushpuppi)
Is this Karma For the Billionaire Pastors?
As earlier stated many comrades rejoice that in CAMA the billionaire pastors and church overseers have finally met their Waterloo. Whether or not this plan to forcefully take over large sectors of the economy from business owners even if it is church business makes the ruling class stronger, they do not give attention. Granted, these pastors are sworn loyalists of the ruling class, they are themselves part of the ruling class and guardians of the capitalist class system yet in this case their emasculation has only little effect on the strength of the main economic players making the ruling class stronger altogether. If this law is not restricted to religious bodies alone why then should there be so much backstage grinning from our left wing comrades.
Alas, one must ask what is the correct approach of revolutionaries to state intrusion in affairs of religious bodies. How democratic is this law when it applies specifically to religious bodies. To just say that religion must be separated from the state is not enough in this case because there now exist a general awareness of the adaptation of even religious bodies to the corporate institutions sometimes on an even global scale. The fact that these religious establishments have Board of Trustees or its equivalent is enough to explain this. That is why some have raised agitations for churches to be taxed. The call to tax progressively not just the business empires of the religious magnates but also their churches is correct in so far as those churches make profit through their gatherings such as meetings, concerts, conventions and what have you. Hence, taxing the businesses of the billionaire pastors (and/or the businesses of the churches such as schools and universities) with their property and the churches is a correct position. Albeit it does not translate to government intervention in church business as does CAMA, in fact, CAMA is a reversal of the principle of separation of religion from state.
CAMA is the single most important law at least for the current period because it allows the capitalist magnates to spread their tentacles into the NGO’s and religious establishments making them stronger or better able to weather the storm of the current economic crises. If similar uproar is non-existent in secular enterprises or corporations as it is in the case of religious bodies, it is because the moguls of monopoly capital are already in charge in one way or the other of these enterprises. Those leftists or activists who smile at the sight of religious bodies losing control over their leadership fail do so partly due to their long standing tradition of sectarianism and because they cannot see; ignore or refuse to acknowledge the shift in method of the global ruling class from a neo-liberal to a bonapartist kind of capitalism of an all powerful state.
Revolutionaries must support the fight of religious leaders and all who feel the need to, against CAMA without giving any form of political approval to the clerics and the liberal/petty bourgeois leaderships of the NGO’s. This fight must begin on streets as opposed to the courts has some have suggested and must be seen as equally necessary as fights against other economic and anti-people attacks. We must call for progressive taxation of all church and religious establishments, businesses, and property. For the right to freedom of association including that of NGO’s and religious bodies! For the true separation of religion and state! Abort the state bonapartist agenda! For a planned economy determined and governed by the people!