Friday, July 22, 2011

Islamic banking divides House of Reps

MEMBERS of the House of Representatives were sharply divided yesterday along religious and tribal lines shortly after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, appeared
on the floor of the lower chamber to clarify the apex bank’s position on the controversial Islamic banking and the newly-introduced cashless policy.

Soludo, who held the lawmakers spell-bound for over an hour with his defence of Islamic banking, also claimed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, indeed, promoted the banking system during his tenure.

But, majority of the lawmakers complained shortly after Sanusi’s presentation that they were not allowed to ask him questions on certain grey areas of the proposal, which, according to him, has about N1 trillion package for Nigerians.

Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over yesterday’s sitting, had told his colleagues that there would be no questions since the session was merely meant to educate them.

Ihedioha further justified his decision to prevent questioning by saying that members of the House were in a hurry to attend the funeral of the Chairman of the Board of the National Assembly Commission, Dogo Daji, an engineer, who died in the early hours of yesterday.

Majority of them later complained that the purpose of the invitation, which the House arrived at during Tuesday’s sitting where they jointly agreed to invite Sanusi and question him over the two issues currently generating controversies in the polity, had been defeated.

They expressed displeasure over how the Deputy Speaker prevented them from airing their views, particularly in the area of the Islamic banking that stipulates sanctions for offenders.

The highpoint of the disagreement was when a group of Christian lawmakers, led by Bitrus Kaze, openly engaged in verbal attacks with another group, led by Suleman Kawu, a Muslim and Deputy Minority Whip.

Kawu had insisted that the House must support the CBN boss and the position of the House leadership on Islamic banking.

It, however, took the intervention of the Deputy House Leader, Leo Ogor, who urged his colleagues not to wash their “dirty linen in public”.

Kaze and a few other Christian members had urged the CBN to drop the issue of Islamic banking in view of its sensitive nature.

Sanusi, who insisted that Islamic banking was not introduced into the country due to religious motive, added that the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has also issued guidelines for Islamic Insurance to take off soon.

A session of the lawmakers, who claimed they were not, however, satisfied with Sanusi’s presentation and the haste at which it was done, insisted that a new date must be fixed for him to come back to the House for questioning on the proposed banking system.

Meanwhile, a group of anti-Islamic banking protesters stormed the premises of the National Assembly yesterday to kick against the full implementation of the system.

The protesters under the aegis of the Youth United for Nigeria waited patiently with placards for the arrival of the CBN governor about 11a.m., but were prevented by security men from gaining access into the chamber.

They sang abusive songs the moment Sanusi’s convoy reached the main gate.

In a chat with Nigerian newspapers, their leader, Adamu Bala, condemned the roles of the CBN boss and asked why the banking system should carry the name: “Islamic Banking”.

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