By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
It took a lot of effort by well meaning Nigerians, spear headed by Sarki Sanusi Lamido, the 14th Emir of Kano, to actualize Islamic or non interest banking in Nigeria. His bureaucratic expediency and Legislative counselling were very instrumental in making it a reality. Even Muslims castigated him for removing Sharia from the Islamic banking proposal and thanks to his vast Islamic knowledge, he reminded them that sharia is mentioned only once in the entire Holy Qur’an, so why litter a bank proposal with the word sharia from head to toe? Non interest banking was the key phrase as Islam prohibits usury. The campaign that Islamic banking had an agenda of islamising Nigeria was all a ruse, just as the Buhari Islamic agenda is one, as he has failed in Islamising even his Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo who remains a pastor and still regularly preaches at his Redeemed Christian Church of God.
The first Islamic bank in Nigeria is Jaiz Bank. My mum, Anti Yelwa, a fierce Islamic scholar breathed down our necks to go and open an account with Jaiz. Samira, my younger sister who is closely around her was long ‘Jaized’ by Anti. Then followed my younger brother Mukhtar. He became ‘Jaized’ too. If Anti wanted you to do something, then you must, otherwise she would never stop being on your neck. She would fill your space everywhere and your peace would be found only in compliance to whatever her instructions are. Usually I wonder where her energy comes from. Isnt it supposed to depreciate as she ages? Somehow in the heat of the Islamic Banking revolution, we lived in separate towns and I escaped her Jaiz Bank campaigns without a scratch. I didn’t Islamise my banking and I sometimes even castigated them for having a slow or poor online banking system. Getting Jaiz online was a bit of a struggle and I avoided them like the plague.
Fast forward to Mefi’s new naira notes and cashless economic policy, and banks have been under fire for the very poor and unprofessional handling of the old to new notes change window. This is not so dissimilar with the way the banks have handled the forex market. BDCs were stripped of their duties in providing customers with foreign exchange as they were accused of causing artificial scarcities, or arbitrary exchange rates, causing a monumental fall in naira value. Over 5 billion dollars, made available to the BDCs yearly, was transferred to the banks, to make it more accessible to walk in customers. The success rate is put at 25%, as disclosed by Ajuri Ngelale, The Senior Special Assistant to Mr. President on Public Affairs. This means the banks have either performed as poorly as the BDCs, or infact even worse. The naira has continued to depreciate. No banks have been sanctioned for racketeering in forex. Today our local naira notes have been turned into foreign currency. Banks and their agents, sell new naira notes at a fee. Today a friend bought 32,000 naira at a cost of 8,000 naira in Abuja. And that is for old notes. Every 5,000 naira costs 1,000 naira. The untold economic hardship from this new policy is unheard of.
Nigerians have been creative nevertheless, even in the heat of the crisis. Some say there is no guarantee that your Guarantee Trust Bank will give you cash, and one does not have access to cash from his Access bank account. Others say there is no unity between cash balance and account balance in Unity Bank, and others have said that the Zenith of this new naira crisis is definitely in Zenith Bank. In Bauchi, a bank branch was found with a balance of 91 million naira and yet they were not dispensing money to their customers. Another bank had the money in their ATM, but it was unpacked and remained sealed in their wraps.
Only Jaiz Bank has stood out in this new naira notes frenzy. They have continually supplied their customers with the right amount of cash as stipulated by CBN. They have not hoarded the new notes, neither have they engaged in the racketeering of the notes, selling them to willing buyers. They have even gone to the extent of providing non Jaiz Bank customers with the new notes. They have stood tall and towered over the so called big four banks. Those have been big for nothing. They have sabotaged the policy and visited the common man with untold hardship. As at today, Jaiz Bank is the biggest bank in Nigeria. It has been a true ambassador of what Islamic banking stands for. Not that they do not have non-muslim customers, but this crisis has seen to a lot of non-muslim customers lining up to register at Jaiz Bank, because of their very fine practises. If there was an argument as to what Islamic banking is, that argument has been upended by Jaiz Bank. It is harmless and infact more efficient, without the sharp practices of most of our commercial banks.
I find myself finding forgiveness for not being a good ambassador of Islamic banking. Oh Allah, forgive me for not obeying Anti’s instructions. Now that the heat of the new naira notes has whipped us all in line, I have seen the light of day. Non Muslims all over the country are now ambassadors of Islamic banking as you can find them online, praising Jaiz and campaigning for them, asking people to go register with Jaiz bank. I seek forgiveness from Jaiz as I ought to not only be their customer, but to be their ambassador, enlightening people about their banking practises and how transparently they run their bank. If there is a silver lining at all in this cashless, nairaless situation, then I guess Jaiz and Islamic banking may just be it.