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«introduction of Islamic Banking in Nigeria. The topography of the disapprobative voices was first elucidated upon. Following this, a general and ...»

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Excogitative Deconstruction of the Discourse Dynamics of

the Controverted Non-Interest Banking and the

Islamicizing Controversy Issues

Adebiyi Jelili Adegboyega1


This paper analytically explores the contours and the dynamics of the voices of dissents that

greeted the introduction of Islamic Banking in Nigeria. The topography of the disapprobative

voices was first elucidated upon. Following this, a general and detail analytical overview of what

non-interest banking is, and Islamic banking in particular, was explained. This was crossexamined against the arguments raised by the antagonists of the introduction of Islamic Banking in Nigeria. In the consequence, it was observed that the dissention that trailed the introduction of Islamic banking in Nigeria was not based on the antagonists’ understanding of what the package was all about. Rather, evidence suggests that this was largely influenced by religious bias and more specifically, the othernizing spirit of Islamophobia. Additionally, the lack of adequate knowledge and insights about what Islamic banking is, as well as the glorification of ignorance was identified as other reasons that spurred the agitation against the introduction of Islamic banking in Nigeria. Although stakeholders of different leanings resisted the introduction of this banking variant, the Nigerian mainstream media played the most significant role in sustaining the resistance and misinforming the public.

Introduction Approbatory and disapprobative voices trailed the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) decision to implement Non-Interest Islamic Banking (NIB) in the country. The NIB is a package whose initiative, framework, process leading to its formation and approval in principle date back to the reign of Sanusi’s predecessor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo.

Accordingly, Mohammed Abdullahi, the CBN spokesperson, declared, “Islamic banking Iowa State University, USA 22 Journal of Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, Vol. 9 No. 1, Jan - Mar 2013 has been provided for in the Banks Act and Approval-in-Principle has already been given during Soludo’s time" (Quoted in Yusuf, 2011) Those who discommended the introduction of IB raised issues of diverse hues which were aimed at achieving a common end. This article explores the contours of their perspectival formulations and seeks an objective excogitation of what the IB’s content is, in the eyes of history, world religions and state affairs. To achieve this objective, it appears logical to first delineate and explore the topography and hues of the disapprobative comments before venturing into the heart of the matter at hand.

Topography of the NIB Disapprobative Contestations Generally, the denunciating voices may be classified into two main streams- institutional and personal. The institutional includes objections raised by and through religious groups, newspaper editorials, professional bodies, religious NGOs, and human rights groups; the personal embraces statements issued by individuals of diverse shades and affiliations- professional, religion and ideological.

The fear or rationale underlying the reprobation expressed by a section of the Nigerian organized religious groups is best captured in a statement issued in the name of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) by Archbishop God-DoWell Awomakpa. The Archbishop stated, “it has become increasingly obvious that the Islamic community has stepped up its determination to totally Islamise Nigeria as a nation. This observation is clear from the ongoing efforts to establish Islamic banking in Nigeria through the instrumentality of the Central Bank Governor, Malam Lamido Sanusi” (Quoted in Ebije, 2011). Deducible from this religious objection is that the introduction of NIB- Islamic Banking (IB) amounts to subverting the proclaimed secular foundation on which Nigeria subsists as a nation-state. It also suggests that NIB is to CAN, an Islamicizing package through which what it considers a partially Islamized Nigeria would be completely Islamicized. One may also contend that established Christian religious organizations are worried that this might lead to the suppression of the Nigerian Christian’s economic and political interests.

Little wonder, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, a former CAN president and Prince of the Catholic Church proclaimed, “we condemn such moves in all ramifications.” We are against the operation of Islamic banking in Nigeria because we see it as another deliberate move to subjugate Christians in Nigeria, Okogie adds (Quoted in Eyoboka, Excogitative Deconstruction of the Discourse Dynamics of the Controverted Non-Interest.... 23 2011). Although fragments of religious undertone appear to underlie the repudiating reservations expressed through newspaper editorials, one must add that like those articulated by human rights groups, such claims seem to be based on constitutional related matters. Evidential basis for this contention appears perceptible in the June 8, 2011 Guardian Newspaper editorial where it was submitted that, “focus on sharia principles was so total” in the NIB formulation, “that any serious reading of the guidelines makes anyone (not necessarily a stickler for sharia) to wonder if it was not an oversight, nay, “haram (abomination)” that rules purportedly offering sharia-compliant financial solutions could be left to apparent non-Moslems to sign in the first place.” Similar theme featured in the 30 June 2011 editorial of The Sun Newspaper where it was argued that, “though Islamic banking is said to have some benefits that will appeal to Muslims, those who feel uneasy about the idea of a religious bank also have genuine fears.” A more religiously gravitating theme surfaced in the 4 July 2011 editorial of Nigerian Tribune wherein it was submitted that, “the initial guidelines issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on the incorporation of the Islamic Banking Institution, we observe, contained a lot of religious connotations, which are visibly anathema to the constitutional secularity of the country. It was further argued, “even the expunction of the troubling aspects of the guidelines has not totally removed the anxiety of some Nigerians as to the ulterior motives of this Islamic banking project”.

The reservations expressed by professionals and corporate entities, most of whom spoke under the aegis of Apostles in the Market Place (AiMP), a network of Christian professionals and leaders mainly were mainly on the impermissibility or otherwise of NIB within the provisions of Banks and Other Financial Institutions Acts (BOFIA).

Eghes Eyiegen’s (Pharez Consulting CEO) statement which reads, “it is not about religion, it is about the law and professionalism....You cannot use a small provision in the BOFIA that gives you the power to regulate, to now begin to legislate" authenticates the fore-stated. By further echoing that, “CBN cannot use a guideline to change the law, the CBN is not the National Assembly. If Islamic banking must happen, the CBN should send a draft bill to the National Assembly.” Eyiegen adds legislative dimension as a procedural requirement to the body of argument articulated by those in this quarter (Quoted in Yusuf, 2011).

24 Journal of Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, Vol. 9 No. 1, Jan - Mar 2013 It appears as well that behind the objections raised by the above group is religious interest, a feature which is in evident in both the communiqué issued by AiMP and in Eyiegen’s remark which reads, “CBN has shown inordinate passion. Those that are worried about the sharia agenda have real reason to be worried. You cannot use a small omission in BOFIA that gives you the power to regulate to begin to legislate. This is not about religion. It is about the law; it is about professionalism”. By insisting that NonInterest Banking products must be sharia compliant, the CBN has unjustly excluded nonMuslim Nigerians from engaging in Non-Interest banking business,”AiMP Network stated (Quoted in Nwokoji, 2011). To buttress its claim, AiMP cited Section 16 1(d) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which states that “without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy” Also, of note is the part of AiMP communiqué entitled, “'Re-purposing Capital: Non- Interest Banking in Nigeria “ which reads “by its earlier interpretation of NIFI, the central bank has not only introduced Religion into banking but also added clauses that contravene the Nigerian constitution” ( Quoted in Nwokoji, 2011). This seems to offer empirical support to the initial supposition that AiMP’s reaction was motivated by religious bias.

Additionally, varying tones of personal objections expressed by people of different shades appear to reflect in the remark credited to Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi, a respected legal icon and son of the Nigerian world renowned human rights activist, late Gani Fawehinmi. The NIB, Mohammed Fawehinmi avers, “will wreck our economy and destroy our global financial status as a rich nation.” Mohammed who argues that “Sanusi is carrying out these powers without supervision from the executive and legislature” also wonders, “what is the relevance of non-interest banking in Nigeria now? Of what benefit is it to our economy?” (Quoted in Olusola-Obasa 2011). Like Ogogie, who curiously speculates, “what will happen if Christians wake up tomorrow and say they want to start a Christian Banking scheme and traditional religion practitioners decide to do likewise” (Quoted in Onwughalu, 2011) Fawehinmi also ponders, “If the Muslims claim they are entitled to Islamic banking, the Christian lay claim to the fact that they are entitled to Christianic banking and the traditional practitioners want traditionalistic banking or Ifa Excogitative Deconstruction of the Discourse Dynamics of the Controverted Non-Interest.... 25 banking or Okija banking, should the CBN readily agree or grant licences to such banks” ? (Quoted in Olusola-Obasa, 2011).

Granted that a modest overview of the attributive outlook of the disputing voices has been outlined, against the backdrop of what the NIB and the introduction of the IB is projected to be by the disputing voices, the NIB/IB would be examined in relation to its conception by the CBN and what it has been in the eyes of history, world religions and present contemporary world affairs.

NIB/IB through the Eyes of Time Underlying NIB generally and what is now referred to as IB in some quarters is a noninterest-bearing transaction model which, dissimilar the now prevalent Conventional Banking (CB) or transaction model, is non-interest and equity based. As suggested historical facts, Non-Interest or Non-Usury Transaction (NIT/NUT) owes its origin to different religious practices and it operates on the philosophical tenets of moral, just, equitable, legal, and ethical considerations that guarantee that nobody’s interest is shortchanged in any economic transaction. Suffices it to define at this point, interest (usury) as what is earned without doing anything, exchanging items of no equal values, and as a loan in excess of benefit. In other words, interest means reaping what is not sown. As observe Viser and Mcintosh (1998), in Indian/Indus religious tradition, usury (interest) is treated in demeaning manner, as it is in Buddhism where, duplicity is used in connoting those who engage in usury. In the Jewish religious tradition, interest which is depicted by the Hebrew word isneshekh is as shown in Yoreh De’ah- a section of Jewish Law (halakha)- to be prohibited. In the halakha that was compiled by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, it is written that, “it is forbidden to participate in any way in an interest-bearing loan made by one Jew to another (160:1-3), but it is permitted to lend money to a non-Jew at interest (159:1-3)” (Aruch, 1999). It must be highlighted that a sort of double-standard is evident in the Jewish context since what is considered immoral and illegitimate in a JewJew relation, is, in the context of a Jew-non-Jew relation, allowed.

While defining and discussing usury, St Augustine (354-430), who is considered as one of the important figures in the history of Christianity made a doctrinal founded submission which reads, “if you lend your money to a man from whom you expect more 26 Journal of Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, Vol. 9 No. 1, Jan - Mar 2013 than you give him, not money alone, but anything else, whether it be wheat, wine, oil or any other article, if you expect to receive any more than you give, you are an usurer and in that respect, reprehensible, not praiseworthy” (Quoted in O'Callaghan 1825). The theological explanation offered by St. Augustine seems to be validated by various sections of the Christian Holy Book such as:“Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest” (Deuteronomy 23:19);

“Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you” (Leviticus 25:36); “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:25). While also exploiting further on the theological implications of these verses and other usury related ones in the Bible, St. Ambrose warns, “...hear what the law says: you shall not, it says, receive the usury of food, nor of anything else: the victuals is usury, the cloth is usury and whatever is added to the principal is usury, whatever name you give it, it is usury. He furthers, “some imagine that usury obtains in money only, but the Scripture foreseeing that, has exploded every increase, so that you cannot receive more than you give.” He adds, “others likewise have the habit of receiving gifts of various descriptions for the usurious loan, not understanding that the Scripture call usury and also increase, whatever it be, if they receive anything more than they had given (Quoted in O'Callaghan, 1825). In Ezekiel 18:8, it is written that, “He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man.” Going by this specific Biblical provision and other related ones, any interest-based transaction, is by Christian doctrine, an act of injustice against man. The Bible also notes that usury is one of the detestable things that makes a man, “... surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head”(Ezekiel 18:10-13).

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