A Muslim’s Thought on Christian Banking in Nigeria

By Yushau A. Shuaib
It is rather unfortunate that every issue in Nigeria today is debated on the basis of ethnic or religious sentiments, while every action taken is politicised, becoming a weapon for further escalation of animosity among the Nigeria’s citizens.

What is more alarming is when religious leaders join the bandwagon in fanning the ember of hatred and enmity through provocative pronouncements and combatant posture against programmes and policies that might have good intentions.

The recent brouhaha over the non-interest banking grossly associated and referred to as Islamic banking system is one debate that has created divisions in the polity. Interestingly the Islamic banking principle was mooted long time before the appointment of the current governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as attested to by principal insiders in the apex monetary institution. In an interaction in CBN, Pastor Tunde Lemo, the Deputy Governor of Central Bank in charge of Operations disclosed that: “Islamic banking is a programme that started several years before the appointment of the current Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.” He added that the first application for license was about ten years ago. He went on to mention that more than three years ago he led a team to Malaysia to develop the framework for Non-Interest Banking, part of which, of course is Islamic Banking.

Also at the floor of the National Assembly when he was summoned by federal legislators, the Governor of the Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi expressed dismay over the unfortunate tendency of treating every single national matter on ethnic and religious basis. While denying suggestions that the new banking policy has religious motives, he said most of the key decisions preparing Nigeria for an Islamic banking were taken under his predecessor, Professor Charles Soludo who is a staunch catholic and that communications detailing the guidelines for the transactions were signed by deputy governor of the bank, Tunde Lemo, a Christian cleric.

Sanusi also disclosed that Professor Soludo approved Nigeria’s fulltime membership of the International Islamic Banking Council, while the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo approved Nigeria’s full membership of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Meanwhile many Nigerian banks, including Bank PHB, Intercontinental Bank, and the United Bank of Africa (UBA), have long sought windows to operate Islamic banking in the country. Bank PHB has operated the banking system in minimal measures since 1999, the CBN boss added. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Nigerian Depositors Insurance Corporation (NDIC) have long issued guidelines for Islamic funds and Islamic insurance respectively.

Before this disclosure, the current President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a Niger-Deltan, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has been the arrowhead of Christian critics against the non-interest banking. He uses harshest words of condemnation over the issue. Meanwhile other respected Christian leaders deliberately refuse to engage in provocative statements but rather take diplomatic steps towards resolving the misconceptions.

There are various ways religious leaders could promote their faiths without resorting to provocative and intimidating statements in an effort to prove there are strong leaders. We have seen how other peace-loving religious leaders provide scholarships, establishing institutions of learning and investing in ventures that could be inspirational for evangelism and at the same time promote religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence among people from diverse backgrounds.

Some Christian leaders like Bishop David Oyedepo, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, and even Prophet T. B. Joshua among others have received endorsement of government to establish Christian universities and broadcast stations that were neither objected to nor criticised by Muslims and their groups. Those institutions established by them are also patronized by non-Christians. Today, for instance, more than eighty percent of faith-based universities in Nigeria are owned by Christians. Since such educational ventures are positive steps towards economic growth, there was never any objection or campaign of calumny from Muslims to associate such ventures as attempt for “Christianisation of Nigeria.”

Unlike his predecessor, Archbishop John Onaiyekan who established and maintained cordial and mutual relationship with Muslims and Islamic groups in Nigeria towards a united and prosperous country based on better understanding, Pastor Oritsejafor is always engaging in political activism and actions that are mostly against anything Islamic and the sections that are presumed as predominantly Muslims. Rather than engaging in unnecessary outbursts, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and his co-travellers clamouring against the introduction of Islamic banking should be advised to channel their energies towards ensuring realisation of Christian banking in Nigeria that could be fashioned in line with biblical injunctions.

Though Islamic banking system is globally recognised as financial model for investment alternatives, the prohibition of usury or charging interest on loans as well as investment in prohibited goods and products are not only abhorred in the Quran but also have references from verses in the Bible. Some sections in the bible that prohibits usury for instance in the King James version of Bible include: Exodus 22:25-27, Leviticus 25:36-37, Psalm 15:1-5, Deuteronomy 23:19-20, Jeremiah 15:10 , Ezekiel 18:7-9, 17 and Matthew 25:27 just to mention a few.

Though literatures on Islamic banking and finance are in their thousands, getting similar publications from the Christian perspectives should not be difficult to obtain. In fact the many Christian universities in Nigeria are not established to churn out graduates but to provide scholarly materials in various subjects. Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor should exploit those potentials and also engage scholars and intellectuals to work out the frameworks for Christian Banking in Nigeria.  The Nigerian Muslim will surely not object or condemn the initiative just like similar programmes and policies initiated and formulated by Christians.

Since Christian professionals in the financial worlds including our Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Segun Aganga among others have spoken to express supports for the Islamic banking, including the recent endorsement by the National Assembly, agitators against the system should either give peace a chance by the development or go to the Court, the last resort.

It is dangerous to use religion for selfish political power and economic gains when it should be the weapon to uplift our spirituality and enhance moral standards in whatever we do.  No one should be against Christian banking in Nigeria even if operated side by side with Islamic banking.

This article by Yushau A. Shuaib has appeared is some online media as well as national newspapers including People’s Daily July 25, New Nigerian July 25, Daily Independent July 28, Leadership July 28, Vanguard July 29, Thisday July 31,  and Economic Confidential August 1, 2011


About the author

Yushau Shuaib


  • Unfortunately neither are journalists helping matters. Most southern/Christian newspapers are intentionally and unnecessarily whipping up sentiments by reporting half truths or even outright lies. Some have even resorted to personal attacks against the person of the CBN governor and blaming him for all of Nigeria’s woes all in a bid to discredit him in the eyes of the president. For example The Punch rather maliciously reported that .uslims were ready to go to war for the establishment of Islamic banking while a Leadership columnist accused Sanusi of introducing Arabic inscriptions on Naira notes. Was he living under a rock all this time or what? Another Thisday columnist resorted to unsolicited tirade against Mr. Sanusi just stopping short of calling him names. The war against Islamic banking has now reached a critical level and I hope people like yourself are not going to throw in the towel at this time. Please keep up the good work.

  • Is our religious leaders politicians or ethnic warrious? It baffles my imaginations that any progressive move is tainted with sectional propapaganda. Those who are not comfortable with good policies should brhng their own or keep quite

  • It is quite unfortunate some of our religious leaders appear like warlords and are fanning religious conflict in the country. This shows ignorance of some of our religious leaders. It is appropriate for somebody who doesn’t understand to seek for more knowledge rather than making ignorant pronouncements that will set us back. Those religious leaders whose utterances on this issues were made out of ignorance should apologise to the whole country and always keep their mouth shot on issues they have no knowledge about.

  • bautiful piece. if islamic banking is premised on the principle of justice and fairness it may not be a wrong idea in its entirety. the issue of timing, as regards BOKO HARAM insurgence is really topical as some christians need to know the dichotomy between the Islamic banking agenda and boko haram. Also what the entire nation stand to gain instade being sectional. to be candid, if Islamic banking is all about profit sharing, monitoring and viability in transaction, it is may not be a bad idea for a country desirous of infrastructural development. Well this is not the right time to cast aspersions, rather it is better to use the power of the media to sensitize the masses, especially those with divergent belief.

  • A nice write up..if developed countries like America and parts of Europe where the vast majority of the population are christians could adopt islamic banking to boost their economies why not Nigeria??! Besides the proposed islamic banking system is not compulsory on non muslims….!

  • If religion is of any help, Nigeria will not be where it is, and no one will begin to rationalise Christian or Islamic bank. In Govt ministries, so-called Chriatians and Muslims colaborate to steal. The same thing happened to the banks that collapsed. It will yet happen to Christian or Islamic banks.

    Religion cannot change the colour of a nation whose leaders are thieves. Those who will benefit immensely from Christian/Islamic banking, but throw crumbs under the table for a few to pick up in the name of economic benefits, know themselves.

    I challenge anyone of any religion to continue to take what does not belong to him, wear robes of religions, and yet hope to make heaven – which is why he professes a religion in the first place.

  • It’s not necessary, either Christian or Moslem bank. Afterall, how healthy are the existing banks in the country that one should dissipate energy and resources on establishing new ones. Rather efforts should be geared towards sanitising the existing banks. To do otherwise could be termed diversionary and hiting up the polity unnecessarily.

  • Whether Isalami bank, christian bank or pagan bank, what we need is institution that could provide the best service.The controversy is very unnecsaary and unbecoming

  • Whatever may be the intentions of brother Yushau Shuaib in defending the religious connotations of either Islamic or Christian Banking is rather unfortunate. Supporting divisive business ventures in Nigeria can not be upheld by any well meaning Nigerian, not to talk of an elite in the person of Yushau Shuaib.

    What stops those who want to set up the banking business in Nigeria so long as they do not tie it up to any given religion? Citing some sections of the bible as a way of justifying such business entities as “Islamic” Bank or “Christian” Bank in Nigeria is rather vicious and very divisive and should be condemned and in the strongest terms.

  • It is very important to understand the concept of Islamic Banking before holding a critic against it. Many have been carried away by the name and give zero concern to the content.

  • If it were called Non Interest Based Banking, I am certain it would have won many adherants. Okonjo Iweala had that much to say. My apologies to Moslems, but its the “Islamic” conotation that breeds these mis-givings. People are particularly scarred of the possibility of mis-creants using this pool of funds for terrorism. The timing is wrong, what with the recent slaughter of primarily Christain Corpers and burning of churches in the North, the indescriminate bombing with the markings of a Jihad by Boko Haram and finally the current advocate Malam Sanusi who does not enjoy goodwill amongst many. If Mosques are burnt, Moslems slaughtered in the South for their religious convictions, I bet Moslems would react same way over anything Christain. The current genocide in Norway is indicative of the growing resentment worldwide due primarily to the action of few Moslem faithfulls. Islamic banking “Non Interest Banking” does have its merits. However to succeed, it’s best to play down on the Islamic bit and most importantly, find another promoter. NOT MALAM SANUSI.

  • The people of Nigeria will soon have their fill of meddling with religion.Why introduce Islamic Banking at this critical religious stage in this country. If all you want is non-interest banking, fine, licenses can be given to any bank who want to operate that, why come out openly and call it Islamic banking!

    I think this how highly insensitive the people in the realm of affairs are to very sensitive issues in our country and people that are doing this are highly unreasonable. Religion is a highly sensitive thing and not what should be meddled with anyhow. We have never learned from history.The story of Indian/pakistan should be a warning lesson that playing with religion can bring untold suffering and death. Turkey is around 98% muslim yet she paractises secularism why not Nigeria which is a mixed religion state. Everybody should practise his religion in his own home and leave the public alone.Or because it is your body do you now have to go naked in public and dont care about other people feeling. Nigeria need to rethink.

    Then Arabic on our currency? Someone need to tell what it is doing there? Have we been colonised by Arabs? Or do we have any indigenous language like Arabic in Nigeria? if we want more languages why not Kanuri or Efik.We are even thinking on how we can develop ourself so that every Nigerian can have working knowledge of the three major Nigerian languages.I just dont no how some people think. Maybe we need to tell some people this is not Saudi Arabia or Holysee. So Sanusi has run out of idea the only way to boost our economy is by introducing the ever sensitive religious based Islamic banking so openly on national scale? Good.

    We will all see when this religion thing get to the brink, it will burst over( though it has already started) and there will bloodshed but my only concern is that it is the masses like me and u and our family that will suffer, because all this funny people that are inciting the religion thing have all the means to escape their family. And still some of us will never reason right.

    I pitied Nigerian people who always show lack of wisdom and are blinded by sentiment.

  • A well researched and explained work; less the proponents forgot in a hurry, the CBN Governor (Joseph Sanusi) that initiated Islamic Banking is a Christian; what is more? UK, US and Italy have branches and units of Islamic Banking operated and headed by Christians. There was never a moment, aside the passing of the bill by the house of common, that the issue was discussed as regards its plan to “Islamize” the West….., a heave a heavy sigh for my Christian leaders, rather than clamour for better ways of putting the nation ahead to meet its challenges and fostering a future devoid of differences, they chose to preach sentiments and distrust. God help our nation!!!

  • Oga

    just do your PR work and leave us to argue our issues. People have right to argue on any policy or proposition that govt brings forth.
    it is now in Govts place to look at those arguments, leverage it against the best interest of the populace(society) and take a stand(even though it might seem painful and punishing at the time).
    You sitting down on your PC to quote portions of the bible puts to question your ability to analyze and understand issues(maybe u have been parochial and biased all this while that i have been following your texts.For the records, the bible is not what you quote,it is what you read to understand in its entirety.
    We dont just read the bible to see the do and do not, we read it understand the reasons behind them and the peculiarities of the times and era’s that the instructions were issued and how to relate it to our present day realities( i dont know how the koran works so i dont attempt to analyse it).Dont get me wrong Shuaib,
    I am a Christian.I dont see anything wrong with Non-Interest Banking, i only believe that it should be properly structured and that we should be careful not to use the common wealth of all(including revenues from taxes on cigarettes,alchohol gambling etc) to support and promote the interest of a certain section.
    One other thing, Tunde Lemo is a deputy gov at the CBN, His pastorial attributes did not get him the appointment to that position rather his strides and achievements in the financial sector did. So please address him professionally and not the way you (and Sanusi) are doing to promote your interest.

  • I really think that its not necessary like Inokotong said to continue to discuss this matter. Mallam Shuaibu, I am a Christian but I do not want to live under the Canon Law. There was a time in history when the Church dabbled into politics and there was a lot of attrocities. It was during this time that the infamous Crusades happened. We should also remember the good number of great souls wasted for so-called heresies when the Church was in control. Great scientists who first suggested that the earth was not round but spherical were excommunicated the beheaded while tied to a stake.
    Religion should not be mixed with politics. It is there in the Bible that usury should be avoided. It is even there to forgive all debts after every seven years.
    Alhaji, would you advocate that we start this kind of banking where debts would be written off every seven years and at jubillee?
    My take on the so-called Islamic banking is that Sanusi is only trying to promote his religion with state resources otherwise, the scheme would simply have been termed Non-interest banking and it would still have served the same purpose.
    States do not start such schemes. States device means of regulating cultures and traditions and that is after they have emerged.
    I submit

  • Mr Shuaib, well done for such a nice and informative article, preaching co-existence of citizens of Nigeria regardless of their ethnic or religious afflictions. Thank you.

  • Thank you for this piece, i hope and pray that more Nigeria should learn to read between the lines and be objective in policies made than to base their objection on such policies on self centerness.

  • It’s perfect time to make some plans for the longer term and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this publish and if I may I desire to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you could write next articles referring more to how Muslims and Christians should live happily together including the jews. I wish to read even more things about it!

  • Sanusi Lamido Sanusi just disclosed this:”I have never known anything called tribalism. A very senior cleric in the church accused me of removing christians from decision making positions in CBN. I became Gov in 2009, the term of the CBN board of Directors expired. I recommended a board for reappointment to President Yaradua, out of the 11 members on the board, only 3 are Muslims. The Monetary policy Committee of the CBN which I constituted has 7 members, only 1 is a muslim. A Deputy Governor’s seat became open when I was Governor, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu was in Geneva. I went, convinced him to come back to Nigeria and convinced the President to appoint him. On our 5 member Committee of Governors(COG), 3 are Christians, 2 are Muslims. We have 24 Departmental Directors in CBN that I appointed, only 8 are Muslims. These are the people who took this decisions on Islamic Banking(IB). The Director of Financial Policy n Regulation who signed and issued the guidelines on IB,his name is CHRISTIAN Chukwu. He reports to DG in charge of Financial Systems Stability, Dr K. Moghalu. The report comes to the COG of 5, 3 of them are Christians. It a board(CBN) of 11, 8 of them are Christians. Then all these Christians must be bad Christians if they are part of an attempt to Islamise Nigeria.I dont want to engage people. I can discuss this on religious ground. I can qoute from Exodus, Deutronym and Leviticus. I have sources from St Augustine, St Ambrose,St.. And different Popes, Clement, up to Pope Benedict VI, I have qoutes on IB. I can debate on religious grounds and prove to anybody based on the Bible. In fact the Natural Council of Christianity at one time said anybody who gives usury (interest) should not be buried in a catholic cemetry. I can debate with anybody on Religious grounds based on the bible and the teachings of the Church that Usury is less consistent with christian teachings.”

  • Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed by the quotation from the bible to buttress your arguement and debate! Very useful information specifically the last part 🙂 I look forward to more useful information to enlighten the public. I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  • This debate haas been unnecesarily over blowing. since Sunusi of CBN is yet to be removed cant we forge ahead and forget the religious intricacies with economic development

Leave a Comment