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.
“While, as Christians, we are admonished by the Holy Bible to respect and be obedient to constituted authorities in our nation, we are sure it is in response and respect for this admonition that our highly-esteemed father, Pastor E. A. Adeboye, decided to resign his headship of The Redeemed Christian Church of God.’’
He added, “We will consult widely and study the law further and the future implications in line with our vision and calling as pastors, implications on our followers, and the motive of the law before taking the appropriate measures of clearly stating our opinion for or against the law to the authorities.
“Adeboye is not just a Redeemed Church pastor but a mentor, counsellor and distant pastor to a lot of Christians and non-Christians in Nigeria and the world over. We understand the news will take many by surprise but the fact that he remains the General Overseer (Worldwide) is enough consolation to most of us.”
Atiku, PDP, Oloyede, others react
Also, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar described Adeboye as a unique example of the kind of inspirational leadership he prayed that Nigeria continued to have.
Atiku said this in a series of tweets on his twitter handle, @atiku, on Sunday.
He said the clergyman’s influence cut across ethnicity, class and religion.
The former vice-president, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, in one of the tweets, said, “Pastor Adeboye is the kind of religious leader I pray that we see more of in Nigeria, while in another, he said, “He is a man beloved and who loves one and all without discrimination.”
He also said, “Some of the most prominent personalities Nigeria has been blessed with have been those who learnt from the pulpit of Pastor Adeboye. A most recent example is our current Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.”
A statement from his media office on the same subject on Sunday added, “The Turakin Adamawa (Atiku) also hailed the several efforts of Pastor Adeboye, which clearly went beyond the normal expectations for a preacher, such as his active participation in the war against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, which saw the G. O. featured in an anti-AIDS advert that was aired on national television.
“In addition, the former Vice-President hailed the role that the G. O. has played as a converging figure for other religious leaders in Nigeria, many who openly attended his services or consulted with him despite being of different congregations.”
But the National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party frowned on the law for leaders of churches and any not-for-profit organisations.
The party said there were signs that the Federal Government was planning to control religious organisations in the country.
Spokesperson for the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee, Dayo Adeyeye, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday.
He said the PDP was not comfortable with the law as being implemented by the Federal Government.
Adeyeye said, “No, we are not comfortable with the law at all. It is an insidious attempt to exercise state control over religion and is a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of worship.
“It has a hidden sinister motive, especially for the Christian religion.”
A lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, said the emerging trend in the RCCG gave cause for serious concern.”
He compared what was happening in the church to what occurred in The Gambia, where the incumbent President called to congratulate the winner and conceded defeat, but later recanted.
The Public Relations Officer of CAN in the 19 northern states, John Hayab, said, “From the available press statement from The Redeemed Christian Church of God, I understand Papa Adeboye only did what godly leaders should do by reducing his workload and preparing others to take over when he is still alive, not when he dies and trouble will start.
“Appointing someone to be National Overseer is a show of maturity and our politicians and all other church leaders should emulate him for peaceful transition and transfer of power in every sector.”
In his own reaction, the immediate Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, said NSCIA was indifferent to the FRC Act.
He stated that the law was not strictly meant for religious organisations but for non-governmental organisations.
He spoke in an interview with journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Sunday, on the sidelines of the 56th birthday anniversary of the General Secretary, National Union of Textile Garment Workers of Nigeria, Mr. Issa Aremu.
The occasion also marked the public presentation of two books written by Aremu.
Oloyede said, “I was a bit disturbed because rather than facing issues, we always divert attention. Was it (law) made by Buhari? The answer is no! It is not a new law; it has been there.
“When this law was made, our Christian counterparts approached Islamic groups to ask for our reaction and our reaction was indifference.
“I believe our Christian counterparts went to the former President about it. What they did or failed to do is not our business.
“When I read it in a daily today, I felt a bit disturbed that they were not honest enough to say that this is not a new law. I think some people are just hell bent in creating sensation and discrediting the government. It is unfair.
Oloyede stated that Adeboye should have explained to his congregation that the FRCN regulation was not a new law.
He said, “The impression was being given as if the present government created the law. Whether the law is good or bad, that is another thing and everybody can face that as it is.”