The Muslim Congress (TMC) like other patriotic interest groups in Nigeria is disturbed by the irresponsible, retrogressive and ignoble press release of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in which the body asserted that Sukuk issuance is unconstitutional and that the whole idea is an attempt to sell Nigeria through the back door. By who and to whom? We don’t know. It is time that CAN, with its propaganda, lies and deceits, which have over the years become its trademarks be corrected in order that it does not succeed in its vigorous campaign to destabilise the nation.

In retrospect, CAN’s opposition to the reformist regime of President Muhammadu Buhari, as against apparent support for the regime of President Goodluck Jonathan creates serious doubt as to whether the body is a political or religious organisation. In our opinion, it is a political group masquerading as an umbrella religious body. It could not have been a coincidence that the purported press release came out at a time when the nation is dousing the chaotic tension created by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The elements behind this sensitive press release were calculative, tactical and diabolical seeking to provoke the Muslims into heating up the already heated polity!

If CAN is genuinely peace-loving, its leadership should be praising the ingenuity of the bankers and financial experts that developed the Sukuk bond as a potent instrument for rejuvenating, redeveloping and revitalising the nation’s damaged economy. Unfortunately, the body went into its phobic and paranoid mood, naming the innovative exercise of funds mobilisation for infrastructural development as attempts to ‘Islamise’ Nigeria. Is CAN a patriot or a spoiler?

We are bold to say that, CAN’s activities in Nigeria is to force Islam and Muslims into extinction through its relentless media war on Islamic values and value-system, even where reality dictates that such values are global best practices. It lost court battles against Hijab in Osun and Lagos States. And now that the unproductive, divisive and self-imposed antics of the leadership of CAN is assuming a dangerous dimension with labeling anything which reflects Islam as inimical, it is high time the body is placed under security watch, if the nation is to enjoy relative peace from needless tensions borne out of ethno-religious and pathological hatred of Islam and Muslims. The body is always quick to link Boko Haram sect and Herdsmen to Islam and Muslims, while it closes its eyes to militancy of IPOB & Niger-Delta, immoralities, thefts, human trafficking and money laundry and other crimes perpetrated by its members including precipitating collapse of corporate organisations to buy jets for the “Men of God”?

CAN’s false campaigns and propaganda against Islam and Muslims has historically engendered hate, calumny, and has led to communities going at daggers drawn against one another. Any studious observer of events in the North-Central of Nigeria would readily see a direct correlation between CAN inflammatory remarks and the rise in ethno-religious conflicts in the region. CAN as a body has promoted ethnic and religious bigotry in our body polity with the promotion of concepts such as Christian/Muslims, indigenes/settlers, and farmers/herdsmen which have pitted people who have lived together for decades, if not centuries against one another.

In recent time, the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), an offshoot of CAN was in the papers recycling the same false claims of Islamisation of the country. It is rather a sad commentary on the image of the nation that such a gathering of supposedly elderly men would make statements devoid of wisdom and rationality. It is astonishing to us that in today’s world where information is practically at the finger-tips of all, CAN still feigns ignorance of the global accolade and reach of Islamic finance. European countries with a combination of Christian and secularist values such as Germany, the UK and also Australia, have Islamic finance flourishing and growing from strength to strength due to its inherent advantage over conventional financial practices. Erstwhile British Prime Minister, David Cameron was so ambitious about Islamic financial solutions that he initiated a process to make the UK the largest hub for Islamic banking and finance outside the Middle East. How then can “CAN” claim to be more Christian or secular than their teachers – the British and Americans? Who is selling Nigeria through the back door? Who are the buyers of Nigeria?

Our belief is that CAN is not ignorant of the glittering developments of Islamic Finance as one may think. Rather, acknowledgement of the relevance of Islamic Finance products in Nigeria will neutralise permanently its anti-Islam campaign and agenda from which it may never recover; hence its rascal antagonism of Islam and Muslims just to remain relevant.

Let’s examine the arguments of CAN and provide relevant rebuttals.
Firstly, CAN claimed that the Sukuk bond violates Section 10 of the Constitution of Nigeria. To this we respond that, the remark is a portrayal of the group’s poor understanding of the law. It is a fact that cannot be controverted that the Provision of Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution states clearly that the county shall not adopt a state religion. (Which has always been used by proponent of secularism). Our question to CAN is: How does floating of Sukuk (Infrastructural Bond) amount to proclamation of Islam as a state religion? Indeed, CAN needs education on contemporary ways government raises money for projects. It is noteworthy that, presently, the Vice President of Nigeria & Chairman of the National Economic Team, the Minister of Finance, Director-General Debt Management Office and the Governor of Central Bank are committed Christians. Are you saying that these people are not knowledgeable Christians to have conceived, previewed and approved the Sukuk. Obviously not! They are well-informed, highly-exposed and have out-grown bigotry. If having Sundays and Saturdays as holidays which are days of worship for the Christians without similar opportunity for adherents of Islam is not seen by CAN as adopting Christianity as state religion, how is a global financial product interpreted as adoption of a state religion?

Secondly, the body questioned the needful amendment to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules to allow the issuance of Sukuk bond. We respond that, Sections 10 and 38 of the Constitution should be read together. The needful amendment to SEC rules are consistent to normal legal procedure for facilitating and leveraging global trend as regards tapping from the immense benefits of emerging Islamic finance market. CAN as usual, has been economical with the truth, the Federal Government and the Debt Management Office have been very clear about the object of the Sukuk bond, to finance road projects in the Six geo-political zones as a fallout from budget deficit. It was not issued to build mosques or Islamic infrastructure. The sale of the bond is not discriminatory; it was sold to Nigerians and other interested investors in line with international best practices. It is therefore advised that, CAN should seek the advice of legal minds to get better enlightened or take recourse to a court of law, rather than constituting itself into a social irritant.

Thirdly, the body claimed that the Sukuk structurally grants the holders of the bond a perpetual ownership of the collateral and therefore Nigeria is being surreptitiously transferred to Arab Muslim world for possession. This ill-informed position is mischievous and ridiculous. The Debt Management Office (DMO) is yet to complete the process, how did CAN know the demographics of the bondholders? How much of British and German lands and territories have been ceded for patronizing Islamic bonds? CAN has not raised similar concerns when Nigeria borrowed money from Shylock non-Muslim countries and institutions. So the nation can be sold to others once they are not Arabs or Muslims?

And why is CAN bothered that the proceeds of Sukuk bonds are only invested in halal (pure and lawful) activities, when its own freedom to invest, consume and wallow in haram (impure and unlawful) activities is not infringed upon? Why has CAN chosen to pitch its tent with the laws of mammon rather than that of God which forbids usury/interest-yielding assets. To Muslims usury financial products are toxic. Who is CAN serving: God or mammon. Equally CAN’s reference to IMF statement of Islamic finance in a non-Islamic country as a breach of religious neutrality can only be bought by the half-witted. Why is this ‘tutorial’ not given to the likes of UK, USA, France and Germany?

In conclusion, we urge the leadership of CAN to be more responsible in its approach to issues of national concern. No group of people or association parades itself in such ignoble and irrational way CAN showcases itself in recent times. Financial product such as the Sukuk is the next phase of fair financial dealings in the global financial system; it does not constitute threat to the territorial integrity of any nation. CAN cannot accept this reality because of its pathological intolerance for anything with Islam or Shari’ah nomenclatures. It is our considered opinion that the body called CAN is in need of a ‘spiritual rebirth’ and needs to be led by “cerebral Christians”, if it is to play any useful role in the future of the country. We must however admonish CAN that even though it wishes to extinguish the light of Islam and benefits of emerging Islamic Finance in Nigeria, its efforts will only lead it to grief as it led those before it.

Long live Nigeria! Long live the Muslim Ummah!!
Dr. Lukman Abdurraheem MNIM, FAAE, FIFP, FCEnt
Amir, The Muslim Congress (TMC)



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