By Abdulwaheed Usamah
There are indications that Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s introduced Non Interest Banking (NIB) system as financial inclusion designed to meet some religious dictates has reached its peak, as financial houses who obtained certificates of the system operation may soon start backing out.
Since inception of the NIB in 2011, none of known conventional lenders who approached the CBN for the certificate of operation, including Sterling Bank and Stanbic IBTC, aside Jaiz Bank founded to run full fledged system, were reported to not have been able to achieve good performance or result through the system as those others practicing interest-attracted system, despite the apex bank’s sensitization and other efforts to ensure the scheme stay.
Against struggle to survive such hurdles, operating banks such as Stanbic IBTC may soon boot out of the system, as revealed by its NIB unit.
Although the bank is yet to come out open about the decision but members of its staff from the unit have began reaching out to customers to inform them of the development and for account conversion, that is, from interest free, to that of interest attracted accounts, as directed by the bank.
A source from the financial institution who confided in The Guild, disclosed that after a management meeting recently, during which pros and cons on NIB operation was weighed, the lender resolved to scraping of the system since it could not account for any good value.
The source further said that the development may not have been borne as result of not-so-good performance of the unit as various board members disapproved of the its continued operation.
She hinted that the bank informed entire members of the unit of its decision to scrap the NIB operation at the end of 2017 and that it was expected to take effect once work resumes by 2018.
When asked what could be cause of the development, the source explained that its the not-so-good performance and several hurdles including non acceptability of the operation by some set of Nigerians which the scheme was designed for may have formed the the bank’s resolve.
She noted that the bank’s inability to break-even or drive the system and create value added from it may have also formed the arrived decision and that customers who considered not have benefited from the scheme were already complying to the financial institution’s directive.
“The bank’s NIB unit have been told to start informing customers on closing down of the unit and for account conversion and other migration process.
“We have been calling our customers to inform them of the development and even someone of us at the unit are beginning to receive letter of transfer”.
“I have been transferred from the branch where I serve under the NIB to another where I am to work as a conventional banker and same is happening to others”.
Although, there have not been any strong recommendation on the side of the bank over the operation by the watchdog of the NIB.
However, findings by The Guild, after contacting several customers of the bank, on the latest development, most of those reached, reacted to the decision and that some of them would have to drop their accounts since the bank has reneged against agreement.
One of the customers who spoke to our correspondent revealed that the bank had contacted him on the development and he had been invited to sign a conversion form.
He explained that though he was indifferent to the bank’s decision but the bank must have operated on the wrong grounds before coming to the conclusion of closing shop.
Another customer who also maintained anonymity claimed that she was yet to be contacted and if that turned out to be the case, she would have to close down her account.
“I have no intention to open a conventional account with Stanbic IBTC except for the Non Interest Banking aspect introduced then because I believe it would assist some of us who are religious and not ready to partake in anything unlawful.”
Meanwhile, in 2011, CBN issued Stanbic IBTC a license to operate Islamic banking services in Nigeria, with preliminary license been awarded to the bank week earlier for a Shariah-compliant banking window, the first of which approved to a commercial bank in Nigeria.
Prio to the development, the CBN’s then governor, Lamido Sanusi, said Nigeria wants to be a hub of Islamic finance in the region and plans to sell its first Islamic bond, known as Sukuk, within 18 months.
After the statement was released, the apex bank disclosed that an approval issued to Jaiz International Bank, a local lender with international investors, to open the country’s first Shariah-compliant bank, after which Stanbic was licensed to begin operating Islamic banking branches within six months and if it fails to do so within that time, the lender will need to reapply for approval,
According to Moghalu, Islamic banking has significant potential but its subject to the risks that go with every other type of banking activity.”
But against public decry over the world Sharia as declared by he apex bank and fear that the country could be Islamised, CBN issued a new guidelines which addressed the scheme Non-Interest Banking contrary former.
Through a statement released then, the apex bank informed that the new guidelines were the outcome of the review of the earlier guidelines issued based on the recommendations of various stakeholders.
According to the statement, the new guidelines clarify the contextual definition of Non-Interest banking which is not restricted to Islamic banking, but also include other form of non-interest banking not based on Islamic principle. This is in accordance with the provisions of Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) which clearly provide for the two variants of Non Interest banking.
“This ensures that discrimination on any grounds in the participation by individuals or institutions as promoters, depositors or other relevant parties in any transaction regarding a non-interest financial institutions, whether based on Islamic or other model, is strictly prohibited.
“Another significant review is the removal of any reference to Sharia Council which has been changed to Advisory Council of Experts whose responsibility is to advise the CBN on the appropriateness of relevant
financial products to be offered by the institutions.
“For the avoidance of doubt, section 23 (1) and section 66 of the BOFIA 1991, (as amended) explicitly provide for the licensing of Non-Interest Banks (NIBs). The CBN is obliged, by law, to issue licenses to appropriate entities for the establishment of NIBs provided they meet the regulatory requirements for licenses.
“In view of this, the CBN is open to receiving and evaluating applications for licensing of non-interest banking institutions based on other principles rather than the Islamic variant and will soon issue separate guidelines for non interest banking under other principles.