“This Code, to be referred to as the Not-For-Profit Organisations Governance Code 2016, is the outcome of an additional directive given to the Steering Committee on the National Code of Corporate Governance on 29th November 2013 by the Honourable Minister of Trade and Investment. The remit of the committee is to extend corporate governance to Not-For-Profit Organisations (NFPOs) in Nigeria. The need for extension was informed by the fact that corporate governance is currently very high on the economic agenda of many countries and it encompasses three sectors: the private, the public and not-for-profit.’’ NFPO Code (2016) A:1

Nigeria’s internet space was thrown into a frenzy on Saturday when the news of the appointment of a new general overseer for the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) first broke. The feeling, which was more of a surprise, largely unwelcome, quickly turned into mild anger when the reason for the forceful resignation of Pastor Adeboye circulated. It is a rule by the Federal government that forced “Daddy G.O.”, as Adeboye is widely called, into stealth mode in Nigeria, while remaining the head of the church globally.

Pastor Adeboye was forced to step down because of a government act that was passed into law in 2011 called the Code of Corporate Governance Act. This is an act of law that stipulates regulations for public and private establishments to ensure openness and accountability. The Act was passed into law in 2011, but in 2013, the then Minister of Trade and Investment gave a directive for the expansion of the act to cover the activities of not-for-profit organisations. It was this 2013 directive that birthed the 2016 code for not-for-profit organisations (NFPO). Thus, the 2016 Code is not a Buhari law but one that was set in motion by a directive in 2013 and was released, first as a draft in 2015, then to the public at the completion of the process of review in October 2016.

It should be noted that the National Code of Corporate Governance Act was challenged in 2015 by a group of Pentecostal churches, but the Code was passed fit for implementation at the end of the hearing.

Prior to the directive of the minister in 2013, not-for-profit organisations, under which religious organisations and charities fall, were not part of the setup but the new code included them. Other organisations subject to the items of the code include schools, hospitals, research centres, political parties, and theatre centres.

The purpose of the expansion was to ensure accountability in the not-for-profit sector as talks of international donation, mismanagement, and gross poverty amongst members of such organisations were rife. How the government wants to check that, however, remains to be seen.

The code is divided into different components that cater for different aspects of an NFPO. The section 9 of the code defines the powers and positions of the leaders as regards the governing council, boards of trustees, executive heads of such organisation. It is this section that forced the decision to step down on “Daddy G.O.” The section specifies that the leader of a not-for-profit organisation cannot hold three positions, head of the governing council, head of the Board of Trustees, and the executive leader, at the same time. He is only allowed to hold one at a time. And on the occasion where such leader has occupied any of the positions for 20 years or he clocks 70, the leader is only allowed onwards to head the Board of Trustees. However, section 9.3, paragraph 1 of the code specifies that the directive in the whole section 9.3 is subject to the constitution of the organisation.

“Where the Founder or Leader has occupied all or any of these three governance positions for more than twenty years, or is aged seventy years or above, the choice in section 9.2.2 above should only relate to the Board of Trustees as in section 9.4(c) below, except the constitution of the organisation otherwise provides.”

The code also gives a special recognition to the place of the founder of such organisation as the spiritual leader of such organisation.

It must again be reinforced that no item of the NPFO code is mandatory, and the essence is only to ensure transparency and accountability in public service. The application of the code is “comply or justify non-compliance“. However, there are no parameters given for the justification of non-compliance. The church is a charitable organisation as it is run on gifts and charity, thus it is not beyond the reach of the law. In organisations that thrive on donations, there is an utmost need for transparency. Thus the code stipulates that the account of the organisation must be presented at the annual general meeting of the organisation. As long as its existence is subject to the recognition of the law of the country, it cannot be exempted from the jurisdiction of the law.

Rather than see the NPFO act as an interference in the affairs and leadership set up of the church, the church should see it as a means of ensuring accountability. After all, it is only made after the order of the sacred scriptures that preach fairness, openness, and accountability in all human administration.

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