Financial Regulatory Council and sundry reform matters
Let us assume, just hypothetically, that the former executive secretary of FRCN has some kind of hidden ax to grind with the RCCG, it should not have been possible for him to use the institution he supervised as the instrument for personal vendetta. No institution should ever be so permissible of anything personal. And this possibility, as I see it, constitutes the core of the institutional deficit afflicting Nigeria. Institutions in Nigeria demonstrate a glaring incapacity to be proactive in the face of challenges, governance, political, economic, and administrative. They also lack the mechanism to prevent internal incongruities.
First thing first, every institution must react to its context and environment. With regard to the idea of corporate governance, the ought to have known that it was walking a very tight rope in its attempt to monitor a corporate atmosphere charged with complex practices. Religion is a crucial issue in Nigeria. And its mismanagement has led to critical losses for the Nigerian state. The Boko Haram insurgency that has cost many lives could be traced, in a significant sense, to some badly managed military and administrative policies. Stakeholders’ ownership is very critical in policy implementation success, and that translates into a due and meticulous diligence in ensuring that each policy issue makes the round of relevant stakeholders.
The implication of this is simple: Any policy arising from corporate governance issue ought to have gone through the entire stretch of policy assessment and even more. Of course, no policy is impeccable. But then the ripples and revelations trailing the corporate governance code, especially for NFPO, seem to demonstrate a sloppiness bordering on lack of professionalism and institutional hastiness. Suspending a policy in itself speaks volume about the appropriateness of such a policy for its intended purpose. Thus, as a commentator rightly notes, not properly deducing the intricate nature of this issue of applying corporate governance code to, say, churches amount to an overkill, an institutional excessiveness that poses the danger of heating up the society unnecessarily.
But then, there is another side to the issue. And this involves the churches and other religious organisations themselves. While the FRCN is undergoing reconstitution, and the corporate governance code, hopefully, will be re-evaluated and reviewed, there is also a need for churches to look inward in the face of weak gate keeping that is undermining the Christian brand as the salt and the light of the world through the activities of charlatans in the guise of prophets-entrepreneurs riding on prosperity theology popular tendencies and vulnerabilities of a poverty-ridden and superstitious society and pervasive miracle mentality.
The Federal Government has the right to instigate any policy that affects its citizens, and religion plays a huge role in this regard because whatever happens in the religious realms have extensive impact on the way people relate with themselves in the public spaces. Beyond this, the FRCN is right about the critical nature of corporate governance and why not even churches and mosques can be excused. Religious organisations owe the government an adequate compliance with regulations that probes accountability. This is even more so in a state that is attempting to increase its profile of democratic governance. A church or mosque may be theocratic but that does not preclude its legal response to certain democratic imperatives concerning structures and rules.
On the other hand, the religious organisations owe their members a firm adherence to strict codes of accountability and other institutional structures that ensure not only spiritual adequacy but also financial openness. It would not be a sin if the financial transactions of a religious organisation are open within the bounds of regulation and best practices. Since the church or mosque is a custodian of morality, this institutional reform of its structures should not be a big deal. Fortunately, the RCCG is not a mean church that would be caught unaware by such institutional inadequacies.
But this is not to say that the RCCG is a perfect church. I am a member, and I should know that neither the RCCG nor any other church for that matter is immune from certain internal shortcomings that should necessitate a continual rehabilitation of its structures and institutions. Religious organisations are agents of development, especially within the environment of institutional incapacitation in Nigeria. From the Catholic Church to the RCCG and even several Islamic organisations, religious organisations play a dominant role in bringing the dividends of democracy to the doorsteps of members and other people alike.
And development in this context of underdevelopment becomes a moral imperative which would not permit the organisations to champion a good cause while they are in themselves an emblem of institutional incoherence. A strong case can be made for the autonomy of religious organisations given that, for instance, some of their founding constitution sits incongruously with the legal requirements of the federal constitution of Nigeria.
However, just as religious institutions have modified the way we think and rethink secularity in Nigeria, they must equally be modified by the imperatives of secularity and democracy. It will therefore be an act of good faith for religious organisations to firm up their institutional deficits in ways that will add to their credibility, spiritually and administratively. In many quarters, churches and mosques do not enjoy good public reputation. In fact, the reason why many lash out at them is the attempt to hide corruption behind the cloak of godliness to deceive the innocent.
On the other side, and this is even more critical, it is high time Nigeria (and religious leaders would do posterity great service if they provide a lead in this rethinking and reform) commenced a deep institutional and administrative reassessment of religion and its corporate dynamics in a manner that will put to rest the debate around whether religious organisations ought to answer to corporate regulations. The review of the corporate governance code that jumpstarted the problem in the first place could be a wonderful opportunity to resolve it finally.
Olaopa is executive vice-chairman Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP).
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