Daily Trust (Abuja)

21 July 2011

Nigeria: 'Islamic Banking Not About Building Mosques, Churches'

interview

Bauchi State governor, Malam Isa Yuguda, a seasoned banker who rose to become managing director of the then Inland Bank, recently spoke to some journalists in Abuja on important national issues including the Islamic Banking system, saying it is about money for development not building religious centres.

As a banker, what will you say about the hullaballoo over the Islamic banking system that is being introduced in the country?

The Islamic Bank is all about non-interest banking; it is a profit/loss-sharing banking. And if you look at our laws, there is a provision for the establishment of Islamic banks.

Islamic banking has nothing to do with construction of mosques or churches. It is all about going to take money from banks which do not have crescent or cross; it is all about money you are going to take for development. They don't charge interest but they will charge you commission for services rendered.

What do Nigerians want really? If we have money for development coming from a pagan country, we should please let the money come. It is not the business of churches or mosques to talk about how to create wealth and how to create jobs. Let them allow us the politicians to do our jobs. Let them concern themselves with the business of preaching peace and love among our people as provided for in the books of faith.

Our elders should please allow us to create jobs. I am aware of a Christian state in the South East that has borrowed from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and they are happy. Nigerians should not play with the future of this country.

We should address issues, not sentiments. Why are we collecting money from China's EXIM Bank when majority of them are Buddhists. A nation should choose where to go and bank. It is wealth I want for my country. You see people suffering and you don't want capital coming into the country.

So much tension has been generated over the N18,000 minimum wage issue. Why are state governments foot-dragging over it?

Well, we have all agreed that N18, 000 is something doable, when able. As far as I am concerned, N18,000 is even too small for the average Nigerian worker. If we can even add more, we should do that.

The Labour knows the sources of funds of states and allocation of funds. They know how much we get and what we spend with many competing needs.

There are states, like Lagos and Rivers, whose Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) runs into billions of naira. If I were the governor of those states, I will certainly pay N50,000 or N80,000. There is nothing as good as investing in human resources.

I also believe that there are states that can pay less than N18,000. There are some states, from what I gathered from some of our colleagues, that the revenue that they are getting is not enough to pay the staff of the local governments, not to talk of civil servants.

We know the truth; we know the facts and we run away from the facts. We have an army of unemployed graduates, in millions. It is scaring having university graduates without jobs. And we are all running away from the facts. If I don't have money to pay (minimum wage), do I print money to pay?

The labour leaders, are they not human beings? Why do they not fight for deregulation when they know that they are also going to be beneficiaries of the new minimum wage? If we are not careful with this country, it will collapse.

There is nowhere in the world that you borrow to finance recurrent expenditure (salaries and wages). If you are doing that, yours is a failed state. When are we going to start telling ourselves the truth?

The NLC leaders should not close their eyes because they are Nigerians. If this country fails, they have also failed. Therefore every state should look at its own peculiarities and determine what it can pay. They should sit down with every state and look at their books. We would sit down with them, do our computation and see whether we will be able to pay the N18,000.

For very kobo that comes into government, every citizen of that state is entitled to benefit from it. Do you want me to stop that? I can stop so many things to pay N18,000. Do you want me to cut the workforce? When will Nigerians start thinking Nigeria? I am worried when they talk about pedestrian issues.

Deregulation should have been done so many years ago. It is a necessity; it is sine qua non for the development of Nigeria.

Nigerians should allow Mr. President to take that decision. Is it proper for N600 billion or N700 billion to be going into few hands in the name of subsidy?

You can count those benefiting from subsidy; they are the few who buy Yatch and mansions in different parts of the world at the expense of all Nigerians. Those benefiting from the subsidy are oil marketers and those in the petroleum industry. It is a cartel.

I want to make it clear that it (deregulation) is a war that every Nigerian must fight. If you remove subsidy and pump N600 billion or N700 billion into the state treasuries every month, all these criminalities and infrastructural decay will end.

The situation in Maiduguri in the wake of military operation to contain activities of the Boko Haram sect has reached a disturbing state. What do you think is the way out of the Boko Haram threat?

I am confident that if those who call themselves Boko Haram perpetrate this mayhem, I don't think they are Muslims. If they are Muslims, they will not be taking lives because Islam forbids killing as we are witnessing in Borno State. Those Jama'atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da'awati Wal Jihad members are not the ones behind the killings and bomb explosions.

Those doing the business of killing, looting banks and public buildings in Borno are armed robbers. You cannot call them members of a religious sect. It is something that has to do more with poverty and it is a national issue. The government must come out headlong to address the issue of youth unemployment.

The issue of Borno, I am afraid, has more to do with poverty and injustice. Anywhere there is poverty and injustice, the end result is what you see in Borno. So, we must find a way of creating jobs.

What is happening now is extremely dangerous to us. The other implication is the international dimension; I mean how we are now being perceived in the other parts of the world.

The situation in Borno is pathetic, I weep for them. I weep for Nigeria. I am their neighbour and you know we have had problem of insecurity in the past in Bauchi State. So, I know what they are going through. We pray that the Almighty God will assist us to bring the situation under control. There is now mass exodus from Borno State and by the time everybody leaves, who will stay.

To my utter shock and surprise, Borno has the longest history of civilization. They have over 1,400 year history of civilization which money cannot buy. But they are losing this history to the present crisis.

For those who are criminals, we must decriminalize them. We must not kill them. We should engage them in dialogue. While I am not supporting criminality, let us find time for dialogue.

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