By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
AMBASSADOR Yusuf Maitama Sule was Nigeriaâ€™s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a scholar , politicianÂ andÂ commentator on national issues. In this interview, the Kano-based politician speaks on the banking reforms of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and dismisses the appellation that Sanusi is pursuing an Islamic agenda.
He said the idea of Islamic bankingÂ was muted in the time ofÂ the formerÂ CBN Governor, Professor Chukwuma SoludoÂ when he saidÂ that if they meet the banking requirements, they would be granted licence andÂ therefore, he sees nothing wrong if Sanusi Lamido, Soludoâ€™s successor decides to follow the idea to its implementation.
The banking reforms of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi have beenÂ generatingÂ a lot of controversy. The manner the bank Chiefs are being treated over unpaid loans takenÂ by individuals and companies seems to be developing into something else. Whatâ€™s your view on this issue?
Well, Iâ€™m not a banker, an accountant or an economist and you know we are fasting now and thereforeÂ Iâ€™m not in the mood to talk too much on this issue. However, I donâ€™t entirely agree that Sanusi Lamido is toeing the wrong path.
For quite a long time, the banking sector has been the main cause of our economic woes in Nigeria. And when the Late Head of State, General Sani Abacha tried to sanitize the banking sector, millions of Nigerians applauded him. The sanitation of banks then started working and Nigerians then saw the improved banking sector until Abacha died.
So, in line with what General Abacha did then to the banking sector, what Lamido Sanusi is doing is a right stepÂ in the right direction. There must be discipline in the banking sector if we really want to save our economy. We should not allow highly placed individuals or the so-called sacred cows take loans from the banks and deprive innocent customers of their savings and not refund the loans they took.
They are not only doing injustice to these Nigerians, they are doing injustice to the country. Actually, I believe what Sanusi is doing in the banks is the right thing. People who are against what the CBN Governor is doing, what are they saying? What is their alternative to the rotÂ in the system?
Many Nigerians are opposed to the issueÂ being treated as a criminal case or the bank chiefs being detained and arraigned as common criminals.
There are rules and regulations governing the obtaining and repayment of loans. There is also what they call collateralÂ when loans are being obtained. When loans are obtained without collaterals and the other conditions for giving out loans are not followed , then the bank chiefs have gone against the banking rules and conditions.
Anything that will help to sanitize the banks in order to improve the economy of the country is quite in order. To me, what SanusiÂ is doing is relevant and it would bring discipline to the sector. If the bank chiefs were found to have compromised, then, they have to face justice. You may not agree me. I may be wrong but that is what I think but the allegations against them have to be investigated.
Besides the issue of loans, the CBN governor is also perceived to be perpetrating an Islamic agenda as it concerns Islamic banking.
That issue has been there for quite a long time. The issue of Islamic bankingÂ did not start with Sanusi Lamido. Even the former CBN governor, Chukwuma Soludo told the people who wanted it that ifÂ they fulfil the conditions laid down, he would give themÂ licence. What is wrong with the present Governor saying the same thing.? He did not start the idea. He met it on assumption. Itâ€™s true that he is an Islamic Scholar but he is also a banker .I donâ€™t see people are picking on the Governor now.Â One saw the signs of how some Nigerians regard the present CBN Governor especially when they showed how he was questioned for three and half hours on the floor of the Senate before he assumed office. One day, Nigerians would be proud of him and one day, all would agree that the right man has been put in the right place.
I am a good Muslim and a fundamentalist too. I believe in the fundamentals of Islam and Iâ€™m also a politician. I believe that a good politician should be a good Christian, a good politician should be a good Muslim. A good banker should also be a good Muslim or a good Christian because all these religions teach us to be good, responsible, reliable, dependable people of integrity and people who should be accountable. What is wrong in being a good Muslim and a banker? What is wrong with Islamic banking if the owners meet the requirements and stipulations for setting up a bank?
Nigeria is a secular society.
Nigeria is made up of Christians and Muslims and these religions teach us a lot. A good Christian is an asset to the banking industry just like a good Muslim. I donâ€™t see anything strange in having Islamic banks.
Are you comfortable the way
the EFCC is tackling the matter and treating those former bank MDs and CEOs ?
I donâ€™t know the details of how EFCC is doing its job. But IÂ know that if they are responsible for giving out loans and they abuse the conditions stipulated for giving out loans, they should be questioned.. For instance, even an ordinary person knows that to obtain loans from banks, you need collateral and if loans are given without this, that becomes a breach. This is myÂ stand on the bank issue.
Now, outside the banks, the Attorney-General of the federation recently threatened to charge the former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu for treason. Ribadu was in the country recently and he dared the AGF to do his worse. Whatâ€™s your opinion on thisÂ dia-trib between them?
Ribadu did a good job as the EFCC Chairman just as Waziri is trying to do. The best might not be the best. One can make mistakes in the course of doing a good job because they are human beings. I donâ€™t want to say more than this. What is imperative is that in our judgement of others, we should be honest. Let us not be emotional about all these things.
Nigeria is a great country. We have a lot of great resources. We have also gone through a lot of things and certain things have gone wrong and we ought to be realistic and not be emotional about these matters and for goodness sake, let us be Godly. Let us try to think of God when we do things so as to do then the right way.