By Ayo Akinfe
(1) As today is a faith holiday in Nigeria with us celebrating Eid el-Maulud, I want to return to this pressing matter of religious capital. No matter how you look at things, it presents Nigeria with the biggest potential source of internal capital for investment. Even if we appoint the most brilliant economist on earth as our finance minister, he or she will never be able to crack the Nigerian economy without tapping into religious finance
(2) As you all know, elsewhere, thousands of examples abound as to how capital from faith groups have dramatically turned economies around. Europe would not be the developed continent it is today had the Catholic Church not spent billions upgrading its infrastructure and more recently, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Qatar, etc, have all used Islamic Finance to fund colossal infrastructural projects
(3) Nigeria needs about $75bn annually to invest in infrastructure and I fail to see where else it can come from other than faith groups. If you look at the sum total of budgetary allocations, foreign direct investment and diaspora remittances, they simply cannot fill this void. The first thing I think we need to do is calculate the sum total of church tithes and Friday Jummah collections in Nigeria. I put it to you all that the figure will be staggering. It will dwarf or at least double our $28bn annual budget and it is time we invest this capital for the common good of all of us
(4) As we look to diversity our economy, there has been a lot of talk about solid mineral extraction. Now, putting our thinking caps on and thinking outside the box, has it occurred to us that there is a link between religious faith and solid minerals? You know why? Many religious orders hold vigils, worship and pray on mountain tops. As we all know, most of the earth’s solid minerals are located in rock formations. Has it occurred to anyone that all these prayer meetings are actually taking place on top of rich mineral deposits?
(5) I have a proposal that will kill two birds with one stone. First of all, people complain about noise pollution from loudspeakers in built-up areas, so let us licence faith houses to open churches and mosques on out-of-town mountain top locations. Grant them licences to build facilities on such locations
(6) However, I would want responsibility for these licences transferred to the minister for solid minerals with one small caveat. Every licence holder most prospect for minerals on their location to ascertain if it contains any hidden gems. You may find the results staggering
(7) I do not think it is demanding too much to ask every church and mosque group in Nigeria to employ one geologist, buy two dozen pick axes and shovels and ask their young members to spend say one hour a week prospecting for solid minerals. Our ministry of solid minerals should supply heavy machinery if anything is discovered or provide high tech equipment if the geologist requires it
(8) This is a win-win for everyone as we reduce noise pollution in our urban centres, prospect for solid minerals cheaply and if anything is discovered the faith house should get to keep about 25% of all proceeds. Over the long term, faith houses should be encouraged to create investment arms that will take out stakes in these mining companies
(9) There is nothing dramatic or revolutionary about religious investment. This is how we got the Islamic Development Bank and how all those Quaker companies like Cadbury’s, Kellogg’s, Quaker Oats, etc were formed. Confectionery in particular benefitted immensely from Christian capital historically because it did not involve the production of alcohol. Christian groups saw it as an ethical industry in which to invest their capital and I think we can make a similar case for solid minerals in Nigeria
(10) In North America, coal and crushed stone are two major minerals found in the Appalachian Mountains that straddle the US and Canada. Coal is mined by a technique called mountain top removal which involves blasting away mountain tops. The removed mountain tops provide crushed stones for construction industries. There are other minor mining activities such as iron ore and gold prospecting that also take place in the Appalachian Mountains. Is there any reason why we cannot prospect for minerals this way across Nigeria?