“There are no provisions in the CBN Act and the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act that empower the CBN Governor to issue a licence for non-interest financial institution to operate under the principles of Islamic jurisprudence without the approval of the Head of State through the Minister of Finance. Unlike the other specialised bank, the Jaiz International Bank Plc can only be established in the country with the intervention of the National Assembly by amending the BOFI Act. This case is hereby struck out for lack of locus standi, but the AGF should take steps to remedy the situation, and further ensure that the CBN carries out its duties within the provisions of the law establishing it”.
........Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Finally, there has been a pronouncement on the vexed issue of the illegal introduction of Islamic Banking in Nigeria by the Sanusi Lamido Sanusi led Central Bank of Nigeria without recourse to the National Assembly to amend the Banks and Other Institutions Act in order to accommodate it. Punch newspaper reported that Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, made the ruling quoted above on Friday, 15th June, 2012, while giving judgment in the case instituted by Godwin Ogboji against the licence issued to the Jaiz International Bank Plc to carry out Islamic banking in the country. The suit was, however, struck out on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to institute it. However, Justice Kolawole noted that had the plaintiff not lacked the locus standi to initiate the action, he would have nullified the licence issued to the Islamic bank. He called on the Attorney General of the Federation to remedy the situation and ensure that the CBN complies with the law. The story is available online at this link: http://www.punchng.com/news/sanusi-lacks-power-to-establish-islamic-bank-court/
But the issue of the locus standi of the plaintiff is somewhat curious and is bound to generate controversy. Can a bona fide Nigerian citizen not sue an agency of the Nigerian government for actions which would undermine his human and constitutional rights? Or even actions that are blatantly illegal merely because he or she is a citizen concerned about upholding the rule of law? If the Attorney General of the Federation is conflicted because of religious, social, political or even economic reasons and chooses not to act in this particular instance as recommended by Justice Kolawole, what remedy is open to the ordinary Nigerian to ensure that the Central Bank of Nigeria complies with the provisions of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) with regard to Islamic Banking?
I am concerned that, while the judgment of Justice Kolawole is well-intentioned, it is in reality superfluous and unenforceable. The Central Bank Governor had called the bluff of opponents by asking them to “go to court” probably thinking that nobody would do so. The issue of contention had been the manner in which he introduced Malaysia-style Islamic Banking contrary to the provisions of BOFIA which actually already stipulates Profit and Loss Sharing Banking as the form of non-interest banking to be practised in Nigeria. Unlike his predecessors, some of whom were committed Muslims, Sanusi has demonstrated his inability to extricate himself from his Islamic fundamentalism and conduct the affairs of his office without prejudice to the rights and sensibilities Nigerians of other faiths. I expect that the CBN would hurriedly file an appeal against Justice Kolawole’s ruling even though he struck out the suit. To most Nigerians, despite his populist and “radical” posturing, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s Islamist agenda is no longer in doubt.
But even more worrying is the fact that the Seventh National Assembly may still be unable or unwilling to act on the issue of Islamic Banking in order to stop its usurpation by the CBN which has abused its regulatory powers in a manner that is tantamount to legislation as regards this issue. Not a few Nigerians were embarrassed and disappointed when in July, 2011, the National Assembly summoned the CBN Governor to appear before it to clarify the Bank’s position on Islamic Banking and the Cashless Policy only for the Deputy Speaker of the House (Emeka Ihedioha), who stood in for the Speaker (Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal) who was conveniently absent, to prevent the members of the House who had questions for the Governor from speaking. The highpoint of the charade was when some members gave a standing ovation to Sanusi! It is indeed ironic that the same House of Representatives is about to amend the CBN Act so as to curtail the Governor’s powers simply because its members were incensed by the refusal of Sanusi to submit the CBN’s Budget to it.
The greatest challenge to our fledgling democracy today is impunity. The certainty that there would be no consequences for illegal activities is the bane of our nation. Corruption thrives because of impunity. Government officials at all levels are inept because of impunity. Our people remain impoverished because of the impunity of our Kleptocrats. The Rule of Law is nothing but a mere politically correct slogan mouthed by our “leaders”.
The National Assembly must wake up to its responsibilities and ensure that laws are obeyed especially by government agencies and public servants. It must no longer tolerate the usurpation of its legislative functions by inordinately ambitious public servants like Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.