• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Needless interference in internal staff movement at the Central Bank of Nigeria

Again, Customs slashes FX duty rate to N1,238/$

Politicians have held the nation to ransom over routine staff movements and internal restructuring at the Central Bank of Nigeria for a while. Still, it is time to call a halt to the agitation.

Fifty-eight senators under the umbrella of the Northern Senators Forum kicked against the plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria to move a strategic department and functions closer to stakeholders and clients in Lagos from the headquarters in Abuja. Senator Suleiman Kawu of Kano State leads the group. At the same time, Senator Ali Ndume of Borno South threatened “political consequences” against President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should the Federal Government implement the plans.

Late last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria mooted a plan to decongest its headquarters, which was said to carry more staff than intended. There was also an economic rationale for the planned movement. The Central Bank has a new under-utilised office in Lagos; the departments involved are customer-facing, with their customers mainly domiciled in Lagos.

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The internal memo of the CBN informed its staff that it initiated “a decongestion action plan designed to optimise the operational environment of the Bank. This initiative aims to ensure compliance with building safety standards and enhance the efficient utilisation of our office space.”

The memo added, “This action is necessitated by several factors, including the need to align the Bank’s structure with its functions and objectives, redistribute skills to ensure a more even geographical spread of talent, and comply with building regulations, as indicated by repeated warnings from the Facility Manager, and the findings and recommendations of the Committee on Decongestion of the CBN Head Office.”

“Businessday believes the Federal Government should attend to the matter with utmost discretion, seriousness, and firmness.”

It is significant to note that the move by the Yemi Cardoso-led Central Bank of Nigeria to relocate the Department of Banking Supervision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to Lagos is borne out of operational necessity and strategic imperative. The Banking Supervision Department oversees the operations of Nigeria’s commercial and merchant banks, with their headquarters in Lagos. Departments moving include Other Financial Institutions Supervision, Consumer Protection, Payment System Management and Financial Policy Regulations.

While the storm raged, a former Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, publicly counselled all parties to let the Central Bank run its operations without political interference. In a widely circulated post on social media, Sanusi affirmed that “moving certain functions to the Lagos office (which is bigger than the Abuja head office) is an eminently sensible move”.

Sanusi added: “What I would have done was to move FSS and most of Operations to Lagos such that the two Deputy Governors would be largely operating out of Lagos or, even if they were more in Abuja, the bulk of their operational staff would be in Lagos. Economic Policy, Corporate Services and all the departments reporting to the Governor directly, such as Strategy, Audit, Risk Management, Governor’s Office, etc, would remain in Abuja. It makes eminent strategic sense. And I would have done this if I had stayed.”

Read also: Sanusi backs relocation of CBN departments to Lagos, calls agitation political noise

Sanusi averred, “All this noise is absolutely unnecessary. The CBN has staff manning its branches and cash offices across the federation. Moving staff to the Lagos office to streamline operations, make them more effective and reduce cost is a normal management prerogative.”

The storm raises several issues of significance at the heart of the national question. The issues involved include economic rationality versus political considerations, the status of the federal capital territory, and the utility or otherwise of the planned movements.

According to the 58 senators, the North considers taking any federal department or office out of Abuja anti-North. They also found a way to chip in a complaint about the alleged improper “distribution and allocation of resources in the 2024 budget” detrimental to the North.

Businessday believes the Federal Government should attend to the matter with utmost discretion, seriousness, and firmness. It speaks to the divisions of Nigeria and our fragility. Handle with care and love.

A second consideration is ensuring that the matter is not a red herring to divert attention from the severe challenges citizens confront. The challenge is existential. For the first time, Nigerians face the threat of hunger from inflation, inadequate supply of food, and insecurity.

Members of the government, whether executive or legislative, should tackle the problems of Nigeria rather than fan the divisions of Nigeria.

We draw the attention of the Federal Government and the dissenting Northern senators to a crucial consideration. Is the location of federal government departments and agencies a priority in today’s Nigeria? Whose interest does the storm serve?

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Other questions flow from there. It is curious that 50 years down the line from its creation as a centre of unity not beholden to any ethnicity, some Nigerians now claim Abuja as belonging to the North. General Murtala Muhammed must squirm wherever he is. The concept of Abuja was for a neutral zone in the country’s geographical centre.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has many challenges to confront and tackle. All parties should allow the bank to concentrate on its core tasks. Stop the politicisation of internal matters of the Central Bank.