Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We’ve not endorsed Islamic banking -Reps

THE House of Representatives on Tuesday made a U-turn over its purported endorsement of the controversial Islamic banking and cash withdrawal limit policies being proposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) after discussing the issue at an executive session that lasted about one hour.

The executive session, Nigerian Tribune learnt, was stormy as members reportedly spoke extensively and reviewed last Thursday’s meeting with the CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, during which members who had raised their hands to ask questions from the apex bank’s boss were not allowed to do so by the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the session.

After the CBN governor’s presentation, the Deputy Speaker had said that the purpose of the briefing was to give Mallam Sanusi a platform to shed light on the controversy that surrounded the two policies, adding that the CBN boss had done so to the satisfaction of the House.

However, briefing newsmen, on Tuesday, after the plenary on the issue, the House Chairman, Ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele, along with other members of the committee, declared that the House had not endorsed both policies being proposed by the apex bank as alleged, saying that, “we have not taken a position on it; the matter is alive; it is ongoing. We will further debate it and take a final decision based on the interest of the people who elected us.”

According to him, “the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not, by any means, endorsed Islamic banking, the CBN governor was invited based on a motion on the two issues, Islamic banking and cash withdrawal limit to come and offer more explanations on the issues before we take a final decision. There are no standard rules that questions must be asked whenever anybody or organisation is invited. We either ask questions or ask the person to take a bow and go.”

Honourable Bamidele said that the House, in its wisdom, resolved not to ask questions after the presentation by the CBN boss in the overall interest of the nation, as such questions might degenerate into crisis.

He said: “We have acted in the overall interest of Nigeria, because Nigeria today does not need further overheating. Asking questions after the presentations that day may lead to another thing. Only God knows what would have happened by now, if members had been allowed to ask questions. At least, we had more than 100 hands up for questions. We were all on the floor of the House today when an honourable member read a letter from the Anambra State governor and the state Commissioner for Finance clarifying that Anambra State government has not borrowed any money from Islamic bank.”

“We don’t want to play to the gallery or into the hands of anybody; the matter is alive. We will not allow ourselves to be distracted. As a responsible House, we will take appropriate decision on the two issues at the appropriate time. That is why we have various committees in the House to handle such issues,” he said.

Honourable Bamidele agreed that there were some members who were not happy with what happened when the CBN governor came to address the House and was allowed to go without subjecting him to questions as it was done during the invitation of the Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was subjected to several hours of questioning along with the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Austin Oniwon and the Director of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) by the House, as he said that the two issues were different.

According to him, while the issue of kerosene scarcity, which prompted the invitation of the minister alongside other stakeholders was immediacy, the issue of Islamic banking and the cash withdrawal limit was an ongoing process and did not demand any urgency as the CBN itself was still on the drawing board trying to work out the policies.

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