Participants drawn from the academic, banking, foreign policy and business group have stressed the need to embark on public education and enlightenment, to avoid ethnic-religious colouration on the issue of Islamic banking system.
“There should be no trouble with the establishment of Islamic banking in Nigeria, because this form of banking is being practiced in several African countries and elsewhere in the world,” participants said at the seminar, tagged: “Islamic Banking in International Relations: the case of Nigeria”.
“But the problem lies with communicating the essence of this form of banking system among Nigerians,” Busari Shamsudeen, an expert in Islamic financial system, told participants at the fifth brainstorming session organized by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos.
Shamsudeen, who spoke on “Islamic Banking: The challenges and Prospects”, identified three forms of models of Islamic banking to include: those that are being fully sponsored by governments, government and private sponsor, as well as private investors.
He said the misinterpretation of what the Islamic banking was all about had heated up the system, from both Christians and Muslims perspective, adding that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should allow the private investors to drive the issue.
Since the apex bank came up with the guidelines for the setting up of Islamic banking system and its intention to begin its operations, the issue has generated a lot of controversies, pitching Christians against Muslims.
In his presentation, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsajefor, said the group supported the establishment of Islamic banking but was against the involvement of CBN in promoting and sponsoring it.
“We believe the controversies is totally uncalled for. For the records, Christians are not against any form of Islamic banking system. What we are against is that a Federal Government agency has become a promoter and sponsor of Islamic banking, spending public money, by employing consultants from Malaysia,” Eghes Eyieyien, who stood in for the CAN President, said.
However, the representatative of the CBN, Ahmed Abdullahi, debunked the insinuation, stressing that as a regulator and supervisor of the banking sector, it cannot remain indifferent to what was happening.
“A lot has been said about CBN promoting Islamic banking, what CBN does is to licence and regulate the sector. It is obliged by the law to licence any bank if it meets the regulations. We will not licence any bank that will collapse, once it is viable, CBN will licence it. Non-interest banking does not exclude anybody. CBN is not promoting any bank at the detriment of the others,” he said.
The President of National Association of Small Medium Enterprises (NASME) in Nigeria, Dr. Ike Abogu, expressed the hope that under the Islamic banking system, SMEs would have assess to loans and if properly implemented, would provide a better alternative to access loans.
Nigeria’s former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, in his remarks, advised policy makers to embark on an elaborate public enlightenment programme to gauge the opinion and sensitize the people before any major public policy is introduced.
“The brainstorming session is unique, because, it is specifically aimed at creating proper understanding. Islamic banking is being operated in many countries, it is not a source of threat but in Nigeria, it has become so,” Akinyemi said.
“For us in the NIIA, our mandate is to explain international issues and enlighten the general public. Since we don’t have experts on Islamic banking, we thought it wise to bring different experts in the fields. This is the rationale behind the brainstorming session,” the Acting Director-General of NIIA, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, said