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Sukuk: Government should avoid subtle religious impositions — Clerics

By Chris Irekamba
24 September 2017   |   4:22 am
We, in the Christian Association of Nigeria and all objective citizens of this country have observed that for a long time now, one government after the other has been tilting policies and actions towards making our country an Islamic one.

National President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Samson Ayokunle

The Federal Government’s decision to introduce Sukuk bond has sparked reactions from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The Christian body has accused the FG of nursing an agenda to islamise the country, yet by another fiscal policy, Sukuk. It says the Islamic banking system, aside promoting Islam, has no constitutional backing. Sukuk is interest free, as different from conventional banking, which attracts interest. But is there anything really wrong in promoting a model that stimulates economic growth for the benefit of the poor? Could government have handled things better? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

‘Favouring One Religious Group Above Others Is Discriminatory’
(Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo A. Ayokunle, National President, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN)
We, in the Christian Association of Nigeria and all objective citizens of this country have observed that for a long time now, one government after the other has been tilting policies and actions towards making our country an Islamic one. Beginning from the present constitution, which pays attention to Islam, by putting Shari’a in the constitution, as if it were only Muslims that are in the country and is spending monthly resources in running Islamic judicial system and building its structure. Why should a secular nation have two systems of law? In the same constitution, there was no mention of Christians at all or Christianity, in a nation with this huge population of Christians! What a skewed constitution!

As if this were not enough, the abnormal military government of Ibrahim Babangida took us to the membership of OIC, whose membership are Islamic nations. Today, our nation is a full member without any law backing up the action and in violation of the secular status of our nation. Is this not provocative and suggestive of gradual Islamisation with impunity?

Though the current administration has made some progress in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency and corruption, it has done more damage to the peaceful co-existence of religious adherents in this country through its actions, though they often deny the obvious. You were all aware and are still aware of the appointments of this administration, which did not strike a balance across the nation on the religious practice of its appointees. Appointments were and are skewed in favour of Muslims. Virtually all security chiefs are Muslims, including political appointees among them. Is that action not heating up the polity? Will this give a sense of belonging to Christians? How can we do pilgrimage together as a nation, when there is injustice and lack of fair play?

Apart from the above, immediately after this administration came on board, it led the nation to join Islamic Coalition against Terrorism. Are we an Islamic nation? Are other nations of the world not fighting terrorism without being members of Islamic Coalition? We in CAN raised our voice against this executive fiat, but nothing changed. No reply to our letters and press releases till today. The legislative arm of government that was supposed to checkmate the executive where we sent our complaints did nothing about these actions as well.

Furthermore, since 2012, Nigerian sportsmen and women have been participating in International Islamic Sports Federation in defiance to our secular statehood. There is no law again to back this up. The last of it was held in Baku early this year. What again remains to make the nation Islamic? Also, Nigeria was made a member of International Islamic Financial Institution of which our current Central Bank Governor was made its chairman in their Asian meeting less than a year ago! What a continuous impunity and deliberate violation of the constitution!

The National Universities Commission (NUC) also directed that any student that does not do Arabic Studies in secondary school couldn’t be allowed to pursue management study in the university. What is the bearing between Arabic Study and Management Study? Thank God the House of Representatives rose gallantly to this and passed a bill that no other foreign language apart from English should be made compulsory for student’s admission to the universities. With the above out of the many actions taken by government in this direction, do we need a prophet or soothsayer to tell us that Nigeria is being islamised?

The wanton destruction being caused by Muslim herdsmen, who are never arrested is another cause for concern. Are they above the law or they were employed by the authorities to destroy Christians? Why were other criminals arrested and they were not!

‘Govt Should Promote Policies That Encourage Integration And Not Division’
(Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, National Vice President (Southeast), Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN)

THE impropriety of the Federal Government of Nigeria introducing the Sukuk fiscal policy in Nigeria is grounded on the constitutional provision that: “The government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as a State religion.” The clear implication of the intent of this law is that no government in Nigeria should act in such a way as to promote the practices of one religion over others. The Federal Government’s promotion of Sukuk in Nigeria is clearly a promotion of Islamic fiscal policy over other religions in Nigeria. According to Wikipedia, “Sukuk is a sharia compliant bonds,” which is defined as “securities of equal denomination representing individual ownership interests in a portfolio of eligible existing or future assets.” The attraction of Sukuk is that it does not charge interest, but therein lies its hidden power as an Islamising tool. Sukuk securities make the person who takes the loan and the lending institution or persons co-owners of the business. They share both the profits and liabilities; and the gains must be used in sharia compliant ends. This is certainly not good for Nigeria’s non-Muslim populations because it is way of selling our commonwealth to the Islamic world through the back door.

It violates the consciences of Christians because it compels us into business partnerships we would not have individually or corporately entered into as followers of Christ. The governments of Nigeria represent people from different religious persuasions and as such, must not engage in partnerships and agreements that will violate the people’s religious convictions. Individual businesses or corporations belonging to Muslims who prefer the Sukuk can go for it, but our governments should distance themselves from it. Nigeria has had enough of worries stemming from religious misunderstanding, such that the Federal Government should spare us further travails. There are so many socio-economic and political problems that are threatening the peace and development in Nigeria, which should be Federal Government’s priority at this time. Anything that would further accentuate the religious polarisation that we already have in our polity should be discountenanced.

The government should take intentional steps to mitigate the growing suspicion of a large segment of our population about its hidden plan to Islamise Nigeria and not promote policies that would accentuate the perception. I would personally like to see the Federal Government actively promoting policies that will encourage integration of our numerous ethnic and religious groups in Nigeria into one strong and viable nation that we will all be happy to belong to.

‘Sukuk Fiscal Policy Is An Imposition Of Belief Of A Particular Religion On Others’
(Most Rev. (Dr.) Michael Olusina Fape, Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos/Diocesan Bishop of Remo,
Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Sagamu, Ogun State)

THERE is no denial of the fact that strong economic base is required for the survival of any nation; and to ensure this, the government taps into many sources to fund both its capital and recurrent expenditures. However, in a multi-religious country like Nigeria, that is equally endowed with abundant human and natural resources; albeit being led by clueless and religiously biased leaders, desire for economic revival may be a tool for subtle religious imposition.

While there is nothing bad in accessing funds from whatever sources a government may find to stay afloat economically, however, doing so via a particular religious vehicle in a religiously pluralistic society is an aberration. This ultimately is an imposition of the belief of a particular religion on others without the same religious inclination. To the degree that the Sukuk fiscal policy and Islamic Banking system are now considered veritable economic tools, Islam is being subtly projected in Nigeria with a national colouration. That is why the Scripture says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).

The issue of Islamic Banking system being a poor-friendly agenda is not tenable. There are ways the poor masses could be assisted without any prejudicial attachment to a particular religion. The level of poverty is increasing in our country, not because we lack the resources, but that our resources are being managed by corrupt, selfish, greedy and clueless leaders. Therefore, Islamic banking and fiscal policies are not the solution to our economic doldrums. Rather, what we need is the availability of leaders with proven integrity, who can harness both the natural and human resources we have in abundance for the common welfare of all Nigerians.

‘Lopsided Appointments Plus Islamic Banking Heighten Fear Of Islamisation’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer, Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries Inc./Senior Pastor, Church of the Anointing, Warri, Delta State)
THE constitution of this country provides that we are a secular State. Elected officials also swore to protect the constitution. Citizens are free and duty bound to keep those in power in check, otherwise the constitution will be breached. I believe this is what is happening in this matter of Islamic banking. 

Government should have no business with religion, whether you call it pilgrimage or banking, Christian, Pagan or Islam. As long as religion is attached, the supposed benefits are no longer an issue. I personally wonder why this government is always interested in promoting things that divide us as a people. The increase in the divide in this country is one of the sad legacies of the present administration. Government should rather be involved in none or less controversial matters. There is so much begging for attention.

While Christians are still complaining about the obviously lopsided appointments and other similar actions of government, it is sad that Islamic Banking is also being introduced. This gives some credence to fears of islamisation. Government should be sensitive and not only be fair, but seen to be so. I believe if it were only the banking issue, the outcry will not be this loud. But as enumerated above, this is one action too many. Those who feel threatened have a right and a duty to cry out and government has a responsibility to correct the anomaly.