The awesome and awe-inspiring step that the Federal Government of Nigeria is about taking is raising some religious dust and too far many citizens are saying that the federal government is planning to Islamise the country. The fact is, what the federal government is planning to do is not a new thing. It is working in other nations of the earth, including one of the states in our promising country.
Anyone who does not want to get electrocuted is by and large advised not to touch the electric wire of religion in Nigeria. It electrocutes more than electricity! The truth is, you shall be loved by many until you start addressing the issue (of religion) that has made most of us in Nigeria hang up our brains. Each time the ugly lady of religion steps in, the handsome love of brain-work and hardwork would quickly step out. For the umpteenth time, if there is anything that has stopped us from thinking in Nigeria as congealed dirt stops water from flowing, it is the issue of religion.
I was somewhere some days ago and the issue of Islamic finance popped up. One of us said and I quote verbatim: “where I work, there are many Christians who disguise as Muslims to get zero interest rate loans…” Why are they disguising? It is because it is a taboo for Christians to touch anything that has the label of Islam on it. And over the years, I as well have seen many Muslims—who brilliantly disguise too to collect money and what money can buy from churches. As it is with Christians, so it is with Muslims. The truth is: this happens only amongst the poor. The rich fraternise and hobnob easily regardless of the coin of religion in their mottled pockets.
When it comes to survival, people think about money and what money can buy before religion. And it is the religion that truly cares for the people that will eventually sweep the nation off her feet, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere. People do not really care about religion until they can clearly see that its arrow-heads truly care about them. Demonstrated love wins people, not passive and flaccid religion.
In the same vein, a few days ago, I was listening to a radio show on the issue I am briefly ex-raying today. One of those who phoned in during the programme said, and I quote this to the letter: “Money has no religion. If money from Islamic Banks will make me drive on smooth roads, so be it. I am a Christian, but I do not care a hoot…” Nigerians want a nation that works, not a nation that has been impoverished by religion. We are so religious to the extent that virtually every sector of our nation is not working productively. People go to wide-ranging mosques on Fridays and drive against the traffic on Saturdays and people go to varied churches on Sunday and maintain the status-quo on Mondays.
This is where I am coming: What does Islamic finance mean? It is the provision of financial services that are compliant with Sharia law—the law that prohibits the payment of interest. This model is making headway in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan. The “sukuk,” is a bond that generates returns to investors without infringing Islamic Sharia principles, which prohibits the payment of interest.
My type of training forbids me to criticise a solution to a problem on the condition that I cannot bring something superior to the table. We have gone beyond empty criticisms as a nation. If anyone believes that what the government wants to do is not good enough, he or she should put forward something superior.
Enter Malaysia, with its innovative “green sukuk” initiative, which channels “sukuk” for climate-friendly investments, thus helping close the gap for both infrastructure and green finance. Malaysia is already a global leader in leveraging Islamic finance for infrastructure development, issuing more than 60 percent of the world’s infrastructure “sukuk.” Now, the country’s regulators are taking one step further and using investments to achieve public good.
For the umpteenth time, the Malaysian government has used the Islamic financial system to develop its infrastructure which accounts for the generation of 22.258 megawatt of electricity and can presently also boast of 115 airports. Furthermore, Hong Kong government has sold its second Islamic sukuk bond to raise US $1.1 billion to also pull off communal good.
Nigeria equally plans to sell a N100 billion debut sovereign sukuk in the local market to help fund road projects. What’s the aim? It is being done to fast-track the development of infrastructure and also engage in project-tied capital building. It is also part of plans to develop alternative funding sources for the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The planned sukuk issue will target retail and institutional investors, with “First Bank” and Islamic wealth manager “Lotus Capital” managing the sale.
The awesome and awe-inspiring step that the Federal Government of Nigeria is about taking is raising some religious dust and too far many citizens are saying that the federal government is planning to Islamise the country. The fact is, what the federal government is planning to do is not a new thing. It is working in other nations of the earth, including one of the states in our promising country. In 2013, Nigeria’s State of Osun issued N10 billion worth of sukuk bonds and the State is yet to be Islamised.
My type of training forbids me to criticise a solution to a problem on the condition that I cannot bring something superior to the table. We have gone beyond empty criticisms as a nation. If anyone believes that what the government wants to do is not good enough, he or she should put forward something superior. It is irresponsible to criticise something without offering something superior.
Ademola Adeoye is a public affairs analyst.