The Proposed Islamic Banking By Central Bank of Nigeria – The Way Forward

The Banking institution is a place where individuals or corporate organizations alike deposit their money for personal or business transactions for the purpose of savings, current or fixed transactions that would yield profit over a particular period of time. Nigeria as one of the growing economies of the world has taken the right step to restructure the banking system in the country. Dating back to the year 2005 where all the existing banks were mandated to re-capitalize to a minimum balance of Twenty five billion Naira or risk losing its operating licenses during the leadership of Prof. Charles Chukwuemeka Soludo, the then Governor of Nigeria’s apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria.

Interestingly, this paved way for an organized and thriving banking sector where some of the banks met the expected benchmark while others merged and few dropped by the wayside. Nonetheless, this reform created free flow of capital funds for the banks to play around with – ushering of universal banking. One would not forget the role the banks played in the Capital market during the boom era where investors’ borrowed loans or applied for a margin loan facility from these banks ranging from 7% to 20% interest rates in order to reap bountiful profits on their appreciated stocks invested. Unfortunately, the proliferation of all manner of deals in our capital market over time accounted for the down turn of the economy. It must also be mentioned that Africa was not alone in this economic impasse as most countries of the world suffered the same fate including the United States of America.

In their bid to restore the good old days, economic experts and world scholars proffered solutions to revive the economy. Nigeria was not left out in the fight. With the emergence of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the next Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria succeeding Prof. Charles C. Soludo, he swung into action to continue on the good works of his predecessor. Between 2009 and 2010, about five bank chiefs were indicted and prosecuted for wrong use of depositors funds ranging from personal misappropriation of funds, unauthorized loans with no collateral and wasteful expenses. While others are presently on trial. Having seen the good works of the new Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, the Presidency recently established the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria. The objectives of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria is to acquire ‘toxic’ assets of the troubled banks and would take majority shareholding of the insolvent banks after plugging their equity shortfalls. The public commentators commended the government for this initiative which gradually restored the confidence of the investors to invest in both the money and capital markets. No wonder in 26 April 2011 the prestigious Times Magazine honored Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in a grand Time Gala Award ceremony held in United States of America. Though, in as much as the reforms may seem to check the excesses of the bank operations, the adverse effects are quite frightening as the capital and money markets are presently witnessing low investors confidence following another purchase of three banks (Afribank, BankPHB and Spring Bank) by three relatively unknown companies (Main street, Keystone and Enterprise) respectively on August 5th, 2011 by the Sanusi led Central Bank of Nigeria.

However, at the beginning of 2011, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi re-opened the implementation of Non-interest banking, popularly known as Islamic Banking, which was initially introduced by his predecessor as one of the verifiable tools to revive the negatively skewed economy. According to Wikipedia, Worlds free encyclopedia, “interest-free banking seems to be very recent origin whereby a working partner gets a greater profit share compared to a sleeping (non-working) partner” What this simply means is that both the banks and investors (working partner) would get a greater profit share after a certain business transaction. One would ask, would this build the economic growth of the nation as being practiced in United Kingdom, Malaysia, etc? Definitely, it would build the fortunes of our economy but how we go about it is what is technically wrong. Please read Business day online of 29th June, 2011 for more explanation. The CBN Governor has the right to talk about the benefits of any product or scheme the apex bank is rolling out, but attaching more of the religious sentiments than professional cum economic gains, would sway the country to a very rough edge.

This proposed style of banking has generated heated arguments and debates across sections of the country. Remember that Nigeria is a secular state with almost equal number of Christian and Muslim faithful in population not to talk of other religious and traditional groups. For instance, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has strongly opposed to the implementation of the Islamic Banking citing some wrong approaches by the Sanusi led Central Bank of Nigeria as using the state funds to promote the implementation of the scheme with no recourse to other religious groups in the country. The country is still facing serious security threats arising from kidnapping, militancy and most worrying, the terrorist attacks by the dreaded sect, Boko Haram especially in the Federal Capital (Abuja) and other northern parts of the country. It is surprising to know that the Presidency have been silent on the matter which needs an urgent intervention to put the facts right as the masses want better governance in terms of economic and social-political gains.

Whatever the outcome of the proposed Islamic Banking by the Central Bank of Nigeria would be, the apex body should please consider the following points as the way forward:

1. That the implementation processes of the non-interest (Islamic) banking should be done in strict adherence to the laid down procedures of the regulatory authority – Central Bank of Nigeria.
2. That It should also have greater benefits for the investors of the Islamic banking without directly or indirectly affecting other investors of interest banking in the same sector.
3. That the Central Bank of Nigeria should please continue to create more public awareness of the non-interest (Islamic) banking by having a round table discussion with all stake holders which includes: Religious sects, Economic experts, Law makers, Government officials and the Media to douse any misconception of the proposed scheme.

The fact that the non-interest (Islamic) banking with its’ numerous economic benefits as been practiced by some countries of the world, the Central Bank of Nigeria under her current leadership have to convince the over enlightened 55% Nigerians on its benefits without negatively affecting the other interest party for economic growth and tranquility.