It is arguably the first international seminar on Islamic Economics in Nigeria hosted by University of Sokoto (today called Usman Dan Fodio University) in 1985, which attracted some of the who’s who of Islamic Economics, that can be put as the formal introduction of the Islamic Economics into the Nigerian University system. Because after that conference University of Sokoto included Islamic Economics in it undergraduate and postgraduate economics syllabuses; as well as started sending some of its economics and management departments staffs abroad to train at both masters and PhD level on the subject. As at that period PhD students were send to spend time at International centre for research in Islamic Economic, Jeddah Saudi Arabia, and International Islamic University Islamabad Pakistan, while those pursuing masters level studies were send to International Islamic University, Malaysia. Around that period there were efforts by Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) to establish an Islamic University in Nigeria, but that effort was frustrated by forces within the Nigerian government, it was alleged. Thus, some-how the responsibility for introduction of the Islamic economic system in the country was left on the shoulder of University of Sokoto who because of that, and the various efforts it put into making the system a reality, it was then 'jokingly' referred to by other schools as an Islamic University. Even though, there were few changes made in the law establishing the institution to make it an Islamic institution as seen elsewhere in the Muslim world. From that moment on, the teaching of the subject matter gathered momentum something that continue up to today, and later copied by other Universities around the country. Regrettably, there is yet to be a full undergraduate degree program on Islamic Economics offered by any university in the country to date.
Let us look at the incorporation of Islamic Economics and Finance into conventional syllabus as has been done in University of Sokoto, which also borrowed from other Universities from around the world. The pioneers of this Islamization process take as their source of inspiration the Sokoto caliphate (1809-1903)1, hence the later day renaming of the university to Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto. Leading in the pioneering work of introduction of Islamic-base courses into the university is the second Vice Chancellor of the school, Professor Mahdi Adamu Ngaski,; under him the foundations for the Islamization of some of the courses offered by the university was led. Leading in the Islamization process was the department of Economics, followed by Management science, and then political science and sociology. In the undergraduate Economics courses, level 1 students study introduction to Islamic Economics as part of their wider courses for that year. In their year two, Islamic Economic Analysis I is incorporated as part of their compulsory courses. For year three, there is Islamic Economics analysis II, while in the final year Islamic banking and finance as well as Economic Development under Islamic framework2. These arrangements were back then when we were undergraduates in the school; I am sure by now more Islam base courses have been incorporated into the syllabus. The university over the years has produced a number of PhD holders in Islamic Economics and Finance more than any other university in the country; apart from it own team of lecturers that have contributed to most of the renown international journals in the field. In this regard one will not forget to appreciate the contributions of late Dr. Sule Ahmed Gusau and Professor M.L.A. Bashar, two pioneers in the filed in Nigeria.
Next we go to Bayero University Kano, where recently there are major developments in the area of Islamic Finance; especially as it concern post graduate programs. The establishment of international Institute for Islamic banking and finance by the school authorities make the running of postgraduate programs in Islamic banking and finance possible. The assistance of Central Bank of Nigeria under Sanusi Lamido in building a multibillion Naira permanent site for the centre in the middle of the new site of the university is worth mentioning. When completed the Centre will be the only one of it kind in the country. University of Maiduguri also has a long interest in starting programs in Islamic Economics and finance; in 1989 it co-hosted together with Usman Dan Fodio University and Bayero University Kano an international conference on nature and Methodology of Islamic Economics. I can recalled that sometime in 2003, I was aware of Maidugu A. A. – PhD student at Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto – from University of Maiduguri who has completed his Thesis on Zakat. In Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, though there are nor changes in their economics syllabus to incorporate Islamic Economics as is the case with Usman Danfodio University Sokoto, the establishment of an institute to run certificates and diplomas in Islamic finance is worth noting here. In addition to that some of its lecturers especially, in Business management and accounting have contributed research papers in the area. Like in Zaria, some staff of both Economics department and its counter part Religious study department of University of Ilorin have contributed a lot to the literature in the field. There are courses on Islamic economics and finance that graduates of religious study of the University of Ilorin are expected to take3. The three Islam base universities in the country, Katsina University, Katsina, Al-Hikma University, Ilorin, and Crescent University, Abeokuta, ideally should have lead the Islamization process but that has not been the case. Instead, they are busy telling the Nigerian public that they are Islamic school without any concrete Islamic Economics program for that matter. What is found now in their various programs is no more than inclusion of some aspect of Islamic economics into their Islamic study programs as is the case with Crescent University, Abeokuta.
With the starting of operation of the first fully fledged Islamic Bank in Nigeria, Ja’iz Bank Plc, and opening of Islamic banking window by some few other conventional banks, the future prospect of graduates with qualification in Islamic economics and finance is bright. This is not to talk of the rapid growth in Islamic Insurance business in the country; just recently the national insurance commission came out with a guideline to guide the market. Mutual funds such as Lotus Capital are there, likewise the Islamic Banking units of both the Central Bank of Nigeria and Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation. As Sukuk bond acceptability in the Nigerian economy increases so does the recruitment of advisers and experts on the Islamic bond. World wide the grow in the Islamic finance industry is in double digit, making it the fastest segment of international finance according to an IMF working paper. Hence, the foresight of educational planners in advance economies such as the UK, France, Spain, US, Switzerland and Germany in quickly starting programs to train manpower in this area. So one wonders what other Nigerian schools are waiting for, especially those in the Northern part of the country and South West, before they develop their own programs in this highly potential field. The fast grow in the market for experts in Islamic finance will afford Nigerians with the right qualifications chance to work in the field in fast growing markets such as Malaysia, Dubai, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. The development of Zakah management bodies around the country is another good employment opportunity for those with skills in Islamic economics.
1- Aliyu, C. U. (2005), “The experience of Usman Danfodio University in Muslim Educational Reform”, in Baffa Aliyu U. and et al edited “Muslim educational reforms activities in Nigeria”, Kano, Benchmark publishers, pp 143- 150
2- Undergraduate student’s handbook, Economics department Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, 2004
3- Adebayo, R. I. (2010), “The motivating factors for the viability of Islamic Banking in Nigeria”, The international association of Islamic Bank Karachi, Vol. 27 NO.2