The approval given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the operation of Islamic banking in the country is generating disquiet in the polity. Reasons for this are not difficult to fathom.
The apex bank, apparently unimpressed by reservations expressed on the initiative in some quarters, last week, announced its approval in principle of an operating licence for Jaiz Bank International Plc as the first Islamic Bank in Nigeria.
…no publicity been done to enlighten the people on the benefits to be derived from the newly approved banking mode. It is, however, clear that the CBN Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, has not hidden his desire to introduce Islamic banking in the country since his appointment two years ago.
Sanusi has also been reported to say Nigeria will soon float her first Islamic bond, the sukuk, while the nation, by the end of the year will have five banks operating Islamic windows, and also look at developing an Islamic money market.
Altogether, we think both the CBN and the initiators of Islamic Banking in the country have not done enough to educate the people on this mode of banking before pushing the approval into the public domain. There has been little or no publicity to allay the fears of those who are understandably worried about the new banking mode. 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. This is more so as the bank is coming at a time when religious fundamentalists are unleashing terrorist attacks in the Northern part of the country. One of the fears that have been expressed in some quarters is the possibility of the bank being used as a conduit for illegal transfer of funds for terrorist activities.