The memorandum of understanding signed between Jaiz Bank and Plateau state government to rebuild the state’s ultra-modern market which gutted by fire during the Joshua Dariye administration has continued to generate mixed reactions in the state.
Ordinary, the benefits of the project in terms of attracting investment and job creation should have been the centre of debate or discussions among the people of the state. Sadly, this is not the case. The project is being viewed with the lenses of ethnic and religion suspicions.
Some people in the state, including the supposedly enlightened ones, have rejected the decision of Jaiz Bank to rebuild the market and recover its funds within specific period of time. Other indigenous people with narrow or shallow thinking have continued to whip religious sentiment and branded the lofty initiative as an attempt by the bank to Islamise the state.
Funny enough. If missionary schools did not convert Muslims to Christiand, I wonder how rebuilding of a market will do same to our Christian brothers in Jos. Going back memory lane, since its establishment, Jaiz Bank has come under severe attacks by promoters and symphatisers of conventional banking.
However, the difference between Jaiz and conventional banks lies in the “interest” and other “operations”. While most of the loans granted by Jaiz Bank are interest free, reverse is the case in conventional banks. That is why, the rebuilding of a market is interest free.
It was reported that after the bank recovers its fund, it will hand over the market back to the state government for further management and revenue generation. The agreement did not state that the rebuilt market will be handed over to any Muslim group to attract or warrant vituperations and sentiments.
There is no gain saying the fact that many state governments, including Plateau state, are struggling to meet their financial obligations due to low revenue generation. It’s not possible for Plateau state government to fund the project worth over N10 billion amidst financial crunch.
No wonder, successive governments have failed to rebuild the historical market due to the high cost. Instead of whipping needless religious and ethnic sentiments, the Plateau state people should support the rebuilding of the gingatic project which has multiplier effects for job creation and poverty reduction.
The success story of Sukuk road projects implemented by the federal government and financed by the Islamic Development Bank points to how such interventions work. If I may ask, are these newly rehabilitated roads constructed in some South-east states and other parts of the country being enjoyed by only Muslims? Certainly not.
In 21 century, Nigerians should go beyond mis-use of religion or our ethnic differences to the detriment of socio-economy development. Poverty and unemployment are no respecters of our ethnicity or religion. I salute the courage of Governor Simon Lalong who called a spade a spade and explained the benefits deriveable from the project.