NATIONAL President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor yesterday picked holes in a statement credited to the Sultan of Sokoto and president general of Jamatul Nasril Islam JNI, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubukar, saying it falls short of expectations.

Speaking in Kaduna in an opening remarks at a meeting to assess the level of compliance with the Tafsir guidelines, the Sultan, who is a co-chairman of the National Inter-Religious Council, NIREC, was quoted as saying that Islamic banking has come to stay in Nigeria and there is no need to quarrel over the issue because we shall realize what we want. I want to assure you.”

Responding in a telephone interview last night, NIREC co-chairman, Pastor Oritsejafor thanked the Sultan, who he described as a personal friend, for endeavoring to speak out at last, saying that the whole nation had been awaiting his comments on the two vexed issues of Boko Haram and Islamic banking.

Sultan of Sokoto and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor

“You know I respect the Sultan a great deal because he is a man who means well for the country just like some of us. We will continue to be friends because the only way this country can make appreciable progress is by stretching a hand of fellowship across the Niger and building blocks of unity for future generations,” stated Oritsejafor who just finished a NEC meeting of CAN in Abuja.

“So, I thank him immensely for his eventual comments about the two controversial issues. However, I dare say that I was a bit surprised that the Sultan, who is respected across the country, failed to address the two cardinal issues involved in the controversial Islamic banking before he concluded that it has come to stay,”

For the avoidance of doubt,  “Christians in Nigeria are not against the Muslims as people have made the generality of Nigerians to believe. We are not against Muslims. In fact, it the Christians that have always been at the receiving end of every violence that has taken place in parts of the North.

“Let it also be known that we are not against Islamic banking per se. What we have said thus far, is that there are two issues that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, governor must address properly before the introduction of non-interest banking as against Islamic banking.

“One, we have continued to frown at the way the CBN governor who is being paid by tax payers’ money is championing the course of Islamic banking in isolation of other non-interest banking. We are against Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi using state funds to promote Islamic banking as though that is the only form of non-interest banking. It is against the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.

“He should allow people who are interested in Islamic banking to use their money to sell their manifesto to Nigerians with a view to wooing them to accept that form of banking which is different from what they used to know,” he explained.

According to Oritsejafor  “the other issue that my very good friend failed to address has to do with the guidelines the CBN governor had put in place for the issuance of licence for non-interest banking in the country which is different from that for Islamic banking. In every sector of the nation’s economy including the education sector, there are uniform guidelines for the registration or operating license. For instance, any Nigerian applying to the National Universities Commission, NUC, for licence to establish a university, irrespective of its leanings, is required to adhere to a uniform set of guidelines before its registration. There are no rules for Islamic university and another for a Christian university.

“But the CBN governor has failed, thus far, to explain to the nation why he is putting up a different guideline for Islamic banking and another one for other forms of non-interest banking. This is in addition to a proposed establishment of a Shari’a Council of Experts to be based at the CBN to monitor the operations of the Islamic banking and we have asked; is this what operates in all the countries in the world where Islamic banking operates?”

On the activities of Boko Haram, the CAN president also picked holes in the statement credited to the Sultan, who said the state of affairs in the North Eastern part of the country should not be blamed on Boko Haram, rather that the government should fish out those behind the violence.

Oritsejafor, again thanked the Sultan for his position on the Boko Haram, saying “if the eminent citizen has superior information, he should avail the nation’s security apparatus with such information with a view to putting a stop to the daily massacre of innocent Nigerians in that part of the country, because every Nigerian is sick and tired of the continued violence in that region and the attendant effect on the nation’s economy. For the interest of peace in every part of the country, we must, as citizens contribute our own little quota to helping government at every level to reduce the army of unemployed youths in the country.”

In conclusion, Pastor Oritsejafor said: “These are some of the issues, among others, that one would have expected the Sultan to address to assuage the nerves of those who are opposed to the issue of Islamic banking as well as the insecurity situation in Borno State that has left hundreds of innocent Nigerians dead while their means of livelihood destroyed.”

According to him Nigeria is the only nation we, both Christians and Muslims, have and every effort must be made to salvage it together now for the benefit of generations yet unborn.


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