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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

THE NIGERIAN MEDIA AND ISLAMIC BANKING REVOLUTION



  Though, Islamic banking is not a new phenomenon as its introduction in some countries around the world date back to 1950s, its appearance in Nigeria has generated a lot of controversies and heated debates, most of them as a result of the kind of negative media coverage given to the program. Islamic banking as a separate banking system different from the conventional system did not call for the annihilation of other systems or stopping of followers of rival systems from following their own system, as some of these media coverage want the world to belief. Any one familiar with the nature of the Nigerian media since after independence, would certainly be aware of the fact that the industry is divided along ethnic and religious divide or more specifically between North and South. The Northern media which more less is non existing, if one excluded the New Nigerian, since until the last one decade has been concerned with depending the northern cultural conservatism, perceived political dominance and bashing coming from the other media against the north now and then. The southern media on the other hand, apart from its traditional job of depending the southern assumed superior way of life, their western-liberal way of life, and perceived economic dominance, had to engage in northern bashing and anything that have some connection with the region for its survival.  
    The introduction of Islamic banking with its links to the Muslim north should not, therefore, be expected to escape this historical divide. It is, therefore, understandable that the southern media is in the fore front of those trying to show the weakness of the system to the Nigerian public as against its global acceptability. For example, when a columnist in the Punch, Vanguard, or the Tribune tells you that Islamic banking is a plot to Islamize Nigeria, you should understand why he said that; because, due to the word ‘Islamic’ prefix to the system it is assumed by same people (whether ignorantly or otherwise) that the system will have no any benefit to the southern Christians. Looking at the realities on the ground one can see that this is not true, as some of the beneficiaries of the activities of Islamic development bank include Christian states from the south. Currently, Nigeria is enjoying an interest free facility from the Islamic development bank to the tune of $4 billion to finance its infrastructural development, most of them located in the southern part of the country. And, if the many Christianity-based universities established long ago could not convert the country to Christianity (looking at their relevance in propagating ideologies), I wonder how a simple arrangement like that of Islamic banking can covert a country to a particular religion.
  The first Islamic bank in the country all ready in operation, with three branches and hoping to open thirteen more, the Islamic banking system is bound to witness spectacular growth looking at its current level of acceptability and the number of people waiting for its services across the country. Already, there are established Islamic fund management companies, like Lotus capital, and numerous windows of conventional insurance firms that operate Islamic insurance performing their duties in the country. The central bank of Nigeria, not very long a go, promised to look into the possibilities of issuing Islamic bond- the Sukuk in not a distance future. With the recent rise in the number of international conferences, seminars, and training programs organized with the aim of training the Nigeria banking and finance professionals on Islamic finance; its seem like those oppose to the progress of the system in Nigeria have a daunting challenge awaiting them. Nigeria, a country with over $240 billion in annual gross domestic product (GDP), has continued to attract the attention of the banking and finance professional around the globe as of recent. With the on going reforms in the banking sector, being undertaken by the central bank, the hope is that Nigeria is on the road to become the hub of both conventional and Islamic banking and finance in Africa.

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