Fraternities are Viruses in Nigeria: Part 7 – The Legality

Lawyer UCGF
University Campus Grown Fraternities (UCGFs) have surprisingly remained respectable in the eyes of many mostly because of their status of being registered as “legal entities” with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) under the unusual classification of legal “non-profit” organisations in Nigeria, even if dubiously. It is in addition to the fact I emphasised in Part 6 (see that many government establishments are increasingly being infiltrated and dominated by members of these UCGFs in question and can use their derived power to launder their names impressively. Who is fooling who?
That a UCGF has “legal status” means just that and not an iota more. Legal status means having the institutional recognition of state authority as an association or corporate entity. We as citizens should question how corrupt those state institutions that knowingly give UCGFs the “legal status” are. Registering a UCGF with the CAC is simply a matter of money, the naiveté of civil servants and sometimes the clever manipulation of officials.

If we stick with “legal system” in Nigeria alone, one will find that lawyers with a few ranking ones do belong to UCGFs. They include Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), presidents of customary courts, magistrates, judges, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) executives, attorney-generals, permanent secretaries in the ministry of justice, law academics, non-practising lawyers. Would it, therefore, be difficult for UCGFs to get recognition as “legal entities” within the legal system in Nigeria? Many of these ranking lawyers tend not to associate openly as members of UCGFs because it could affect their status within the profession. Why go underground if you are doing something right and legal?
When a judge or magistrate pronounces that a particular UCGF is a not a “secret cult” or not a “criminal group” or are not “dishonourable entity” you need to check that very judge or magistrate out properly. Is he a member of that given or another UCGF? Is he successfully being blackmailed by the UCGF? Is his son a member of the UCGF? It usually is one or more of such reasons. In public, the different UCGFs do not condemn each other for fear of devastating retaliation. Like mafia families, war is not good for the business of UCGFs. No, test bone.
Let us be serious here. Organisations that extort their members for cash often to the point of putting them in debt. Or that engage in well-crafted habitual donor funding and charity fraud. Or that have used severe violence against its members or members of the public. Or that engage in mail fraud, or that sabotages the good personal works of its members to show who is boss. Or that models itself on American street gangs. Yes, they can be “legal entities”, but their activities are unlawful, and in a decent society, jails would have their fair proportion of their members as inmates.
Astonishingly and increasingly leading Nigerian clergymen are helping to launder the image of UCGFs. When bishops, archbishops, grandee pastors and general overseers start to hobnob with publicly and endorse UCGFs, it is a classic case of religion’s loss and the UCGF’s gain. Drunkenness, womanising, smoking, “smoking”, psychopathy are all the most significant parts of UCGF life. Still, some leading clergy choose to ignore such constant unrighteous behaviour and praise them, giving the “righteous status”. The reason behind such legitimisation is a bit of mystery. As I mentioned in Part 5 (see would Jesus or Mohammed join or endorse UCGFs? The answers proffered will shock you and clergymen themselves will provide some of them.
Then there are UCGF members who are journalists. These media people make sure that minimal adverse news reports about UCGFs get to the public domain. However, these same people make sure every small good thing a UCGF does is blown up with excessive exaggeration and made into a significant media event giving them good “media status”. Most sadly, it is when something very tragic or wrong happens in a society that you hear the “loud do-gooding voices” of UCGFs. The very exploitative nature of UCGFs prevents them from creating something useful out nothing or even out something good itself.
There is no beautiful name for a bad disease. UCGFs are viruses, and the consequences of their existence are becoming increasingly evident. Whether, UCGFs have “legal status”, “righteous status” or “media status” they cannot hide the fact that they are “nasty viruses” causing dangerous “practical menaces” and deceitful “imaginary goods” wherever they may be.
As they continue to infect societies, they swear to redeem. However, the law is not on their side. Maybe a day will come when officers of the justice system will have no choice to rethink their membership and support for UCGFs.
Grimot Nane

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