Mr Ahmed Popoola, an accountant and Managing Director of Credit Bureau, a financial organisation, has said that Islamic banking will help to end the current economic downturn being experienced in the country.

Popoola made the statement while delivering a keynote address at the annual national conference of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN) in Lagos on Friday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference is themed ‘Pulling Nigeria Out of the Economic Recession’.

“Islamic finance is an alternative option worth exploring to raise funds for public works and to support the private sector access to finance.

“Worldwide, Islamic finance is no more peripheral to conventional finance as it is being operated in 75 countries, including western nations.

“People think that the Islamic financial system is based on faith, but it is based on justice for the two parties.

“Besides, Islamic finance system does not allow investments that harm people or the environment, thereby promoting sustainable finance,” he said.

The accountant, noted that the options that Islamic finance offers in funding public infrastructure and empowering small business would help bail the country out of recession.
Popoola also noted that Nigeria was experiencing recession for the second time as the country had experienced recession in the 1980s.

“Before this current experience of recession, the last time Nigeria was in recession was about 25 years ago.

“That was in 1987 when the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recorded consecutive negative growth of -0.51% in the first quarter.

“Recession does not happen overnight, the ominous signs are always there. During the recession of the 1980s, the signs of things to come were apparent in the early 1980s when the then Federal Government declared ‘Austerity Measures.’

“The signs of the 2016 recession were also manifested in the preceding years. Real GDP growth slid from 6.3% in 2014 to 2.7% in 2015 and finally to a negative of -1.5% in 2016.

“Just as it was in the 1980s, Nigeria again, this time, found itself in recession because of the challenge of earnings from oil.

Popoola added that Nigeria was currently exiting the recession and that there have been recent improvements in the earnings from the oil industry.

He gave various suggestions where the country could overcome the recession and get on the path of growth and development.

“There needs to be a diversified economy and massive investment in infrastructure, there needs to be a re-orientation of Nigeria towards appreciating our products.

“Peace and stability have to be restored to all parts of the country as it is crucial and a pre-requisite for any economic development.

“Foreign direct investment needs to be nuances and the promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) needs special attention as there is a need to separate SMEs development from poverty alleviation programmes.

Mr Abubakar Mahmud, the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in his speech, said that the NBA and MULAN should collaborate on Islamic banking projects.

“I will like to thank Mr Ahmed Popoola for an enlightening speech, the NBA and MULAN should collaborate on a proposal on Islamic banking which can be adopted by financial organisations.

“When we look at national indices, we notice the inequalities between some certain groups.

“This becomes problematic in countries and developing Islamic finance can bridge a gap between the groups,” Mahmoud said.

The NBA president noted that his presence at the conference was to express support and solidarity for MULAN.

“I want to thank the leadership of MULAN for the leadership it is providing and I will like greater partnership between the NBA and MULAN,” Mahmoud said.

Another SAN, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, decried the low level of western education among people of the Islamic faith.

“I am extremely happy that muslim lawyers came together to form MULAN, the level of education among Muslims is very low; we are still behind in western education.

“If you look at the list of successful candidates at the bar exams in the law school, we still find that the number of Muslim brothers and sisters called to bar, compared to our Christian brothers and sisters, is as low as 10 to 15 per cent.

“This trend occurs in other professions such as medicine. Though efforts are being made in the northern part of the country, a lot still needs to be done in giving the Muslim child access to education.

The Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Oluwafunmilayo Atilade, said the theme of the event was of high relevance as it affected every Nigerian.

Atilade, represented by Justice Kudirat Jose, commended MULAN for its strides in the justice sector.

“MULAN was created just 10 years ago and because of its successes in the justice sector, I thought it had been for a longer period.

“As lawyers, we should be a member of MULAN and make our mark in the justice sector.

“The theme for today and other topics to be discussed are highly relevant to us.

“I thank you all once again and I pray that this conference will be a resounding success,” she said.