Justice Gabriel Kolawole on fire: Declares Islamic banking illegal

by Stanley Azuakola

It’s not every day you hear that a single judge gave two headline-making rulings on the same day. But that’s what happened yesterday Friday 15 in Abuja at the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole.

In one of the cases involving Sen. Ali Ndume, who is accused of being a sponsor of terrorism, Justice Kolawole ruled that the senator does indeed have a case to answer despite the arguments made by his lawyer, Rickey Tarfa (SAN).

Tarfa had told the court that the case should be dismissed because the government does not have sufficient evidence linking Sen. Ndume with any single Boko Haram terrorism activity. He said that if not for the fact that Sen. Ndume was appointed into a Presidential Committee on Security in the North East Zone, he would never even had come in contact with the former Boko Haram Spokesman, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, who has now been jailed for three years.

But Justice Kolawole disagreed. He ruled that the fact that Ndume denied involvement in the offence with which he was charged did not mean that there was no case against him. After all, in the opinion of the judge, there were affidavits, evidence and witnesses’ statement submitted by the prosecution, which showed that Ndume had a link with the members of the Boko Haram sect.

He said: “The motion on notice brought by the accused person seeking to quash the charges against him is hereby dismissed; the accused person should face trial. I am prepared to give the matter accelerated hearing.”

In the second case a lawyer, Godwin Sunday Ogboji, asked the court to nullify the license given by the CBN to Jaiz International Bank Plc, an Islamic bank.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole dismissed the case because the plaintiff Mr Ogboji did not have the locus standi to institute the case. He however made a strong declaration likely to have ripple effects in the continuing debate over whether Islamic banking should be permitted in the country.

According to the judge, operating a financial institution operating under the principles of Islamic jurisprudence is illegal and unconstitutional.

He said: “There are no provisions in the CBN Act and the Banks provided for in the Banks and other financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) that empowers the CBN Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to issue license 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 specialized banks, the Jaiz International Bank PLC can only be established in the country with the intervention of the National Assembly by amending the BOFIA Act.”

He charged the Attorney General to immediately take steps to remedy the situation and “further ensure that the CBN carries out its duties within the provisions of the law establishing it.”

‘’CBN does not have the power to designate Islamic Bank as specialize bank’’, said Justice Kolawole. The judge’s declaration is a huge blow to CBN governor, the regal Sanusi Lamido, who is the most vocal supporter of Islamic banking in the country.

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