• Tuesday, February 27, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

CBN, FAAN’s relocation to Lagos still breeds rancour

How reforms can boost productivity as money supply rises 77%

…Arewa, others kick

…’Negative reactions reflects disunited country’

…Selfishness behind elite Northerners’ foul cry – Ex-staff of CBN

…FG explains reason for decision

By December 12th this year, Abuja will be marking 33 years as the capital of Nigeria.

Considering how the city, designed by Kenzo Tange, a Japanese architect, has evolved over the past three decades, one will say that the objectives of relocating the capital from the very busy and congested Lagos have, at least, been achieved.

But the recent rumours of relocation back to Lagos have not gone down well in many quarters despite the Federal Government’s explanation that the relocation plan was only for a few ministries, whose operational bases are better situated in Lagos.

Read also: Northern senators mull legal action over relocation of FAAN, CBN

The relocation ‘saga’ that is making headlines in the media, is following the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to relocate its Department of Banking Supervision to Lagos and the directive of the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria(FAAN) should relocate its head office back to Lagos.

With almost all the bank headquarters in Lagos, apart from Jaiz Bank, and the busiest airports for domestic, private and international flights in Lagos, many are of the opinion that the CBN and aviation sector should not have gone to Abuja in the first place.

They described the relocation as a welcome development, while asking for more to be relocated back to places they naturally belong.

Olademeji Isiaka, a senior banker, decried the stress and huge cost of moving between Lagos and Abuja by all the banks to attend meetings, training, clarifications, certifications and other demands of the CBN.

“If the CBN calls, the banks must answer at their own expense, but if the apex bank is in Lagos, it will be easier and a stone’s throw to attend. This will impact on the efficiency of the banks because of the location of the sector stakeholders in one place,” he said.

He also noted the same for the aviation industry, which he described as a very sensitive sector that requires all stakeholders to share and exchange information needed for smooth operations.

“Imagine in an emergency situation and someone in Lagos is telling you that they are calling Abuja or that the director of the section affected is in Kano on holiday. We need everything in one place for better efficiency, then spread others according to their comparative advantage in the country,” he further said.

For Pascal Alagha-Ere, a seafarer and onetime executive member of Nigerian Shippers Council, relocation is part of decentralising power, for equitable governance and development.

He commended the CBN and the Ministry of Aviation for the move, while urging others to speak out.

“The government should bring the Navy and Nigerian Ports Authority to the Niger Delta because we have water like Lagos too. I don’t see the reason the Ministry of Petroleum, NNPC and anything related to oil and gas should be in Abuja. You don’t play politics with your economy and that is why ours is in shambles now. We are not asking for the relocation of Aso Rock, National Assembly or Army headquarters, but those that should not be in Abuja and should not be used for politicking,” Alagha-Ere said.

The sailor decried that despite the water in Niger Delta, most seafarers from the region will come to Lagos for things that the NPA in Port Harcourt, Warri or Calabar could handle easily just because of centralisation of power.

“The relocation is good, it will boost ease of doing business, improve efficiency and productivity. But it must be sustained, it should not stop in Lagos alone, there are other parts of the country that need Federal Government presence too,” he concluded.

On the contrary, Kobe Ibrahim, an assistant director at the Federal Civil Service Abuja, noted that with the relocation of one ministry or one department, there would be agitations for more to be relocated and that may defeat the purpose of the relocation.

“For me, there are many ministries, departments and agencies that are not supposed to leave Lagos in the first place or even be in Lagos. We followed the colonial masters to locate everything in one place for easy administration. Though that may be a mistake, starting relocation now will result in the request for more to leave Abuja and this government will approve it. Abuja will be empty if that starts because many civil servants will want to leave to places where life is less expensive,” he said.

Debate is a distraction from major pressing issues – Lecturer

“The diverse reactions have opened crucial debate about national unity, regional balance, resource control, and the future of Nigerian state,” according to Abiodun Adeniyi of Baze University, Abuja.

He however, believes that the debate is a “distraction” as Nigeria currently has several more challenging problems calling for attention.

“Over the years, members of the elite group have always devised means to sway public debates away from more pressing issues.

“I am sure that you know that more Nigerians will want the elite to talk about the growing japa syndrome arising from high unemployment, hunger, poverty and insecurity rather than dissipate energy on relocation of offices.

“We had asked the government to cut cost of governance; so, if the decision is in tandem with such needs, then, why don’t we support it?”

Arewa, others kick

The Arewa group, in a clear rejection of the idea, described the planned relocation of the agencies to Lagos as “a deliberate plot against the northern region.”
Bashir Dalhatu, chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), speaking on Arise Television on the issue, expressed his concerns over the plan, arguing that the relocation policy disproportionately disadvantaged the North.

He contended that while Lagos may harbor more airline activities, the north plays a crucial role in Nigeria’s economic heartland through vibrant commerce and trade, while Abuja serves a centre of national unity.

Dalhatu further argued that the north played a significant role in Tinubu’s recent electoral victory, and they deserve fair representation in the distribution of key institutions.

“Their people voted Tinubu…Well he has relieved them of CBN and FAAN,” he said.

The ACF chairman’s remarks have reignited concerns about regional imbalances in Nigeria’s political and economic landscape.

Proponents of fairness see it as a necessary step towards equitable distribution of resources and power, while others view it as politically motivated and potentially disruptive to established economic hubs.

While some hailed the return as a necessary correction of past errors, others raise concerns about fairness and long-term implications.

Selfishness behind elite Northerners’ foul cry – Ex-staff of CBN

A former staff of the CBN, who is of the northern extraction, exposed more reasons Northern political elite are screaming foul.

The former staff who said that he worked in CBN for 34 years and retired as an executive director, blamed the acrimony and bickering on the elite northerners who for their selfish reasons do not want their children who are mostly affected by the movement from relocating to Lagos.

“I worked at the CBN for 34 years and retired as an executive director. So, I should know one or two things about what’s happening in that place.

“We, particularly Northerners among us, should be careful how we make comments. The Northern elders and elite that are insinuating this are not doing it because they love the North so much.

“They are doing this because of their children and families that are affected by the movement.

The former CBN staff blamed Godwin Emefiele, the embattled former CBN Governor for populating the “lucrative department” with children of top northern political elite.

“That’s the fault of Emefiele. He employed mostly Privileged Children into Central Bank. Their parents even dictated the departments where they must work unlike some of us that were posted to CBN offices nationwide not minding where we are from.

“Those departments moving to Lagos are some of the lucrative ones and their children have gone to report Central Bank Management to them since they don’t want to work anywhere apart from Abuja.

They don’t even want to work in their own bandit-infested home towns. So, the Northern elders and all the people protesting are not doing it because they love the North.

“They are doing it because of their children. Example, I know Alhaji Yusuf very well, I want to ask how many of his children did Emefiele employ?

“It’s only the sons and daughters and wives of chief of staff, Senators, key Reps members, ministers, key political actors, governors across the country and the parents insist that these children must work in Abuja despite the fact that the Abuja facilities are a disaster waiting to happen.

“The lifts are overcrowded, sewages are over flowing, water is inadequate.”

According to him, “Most of the other Northerners, southerners employed that are not in the group mentioned above either bought the jobs for between “5 to 10 million” through Emefiele’s cronies, who are now on the run for fraud or actually girlfriends of the bosses and other powerful people in society.

“My own daughter could not even serve NYSC in CBN not to talk of working there despite my sacrifices of 34 years. When i heard about the offer to buy job, I just said I would rather give that N5 m or N10m to my daughter because i know how enterprising she is and there was nothing so big about working in CBN because the job is no more challenging and this children of big men are just roaming all over the place doing nothing. So this is the case,” he said

Move may send wrong signals to investors, embassies – Researcher

Looking at the development from a security perspective, Samuel Onikoyi, a Nigerian researcher in Brussels, Belgium, noted that no matter how the presidency will paint the relocation picture, it will send negative signals to foreigners that Abuja is not safe, especially with the happenings in recent times.

“Most of the embassies are in Abuja, but they prefer to be in Lagos. This relocation may result in some relocating back to Lagos, after all, that is the aviation gateway and it is relatively more secure than Abuja. I think the relocation thing should be when security has improved so that many will not read meaning to it,” he advised.

Meanwhile, the civil servants are set to carry on with the relocation directive, with some happy and others sad that the move will require resettling down, especially for those who left Lagos to Abuja and are coming back after almost settling down with their families there.

But for the private sector, especially businesses, it will boost ease of doing business, reduce cost and impact efficiency.

Issues on FAAN relocation

Addressing inquiries, FAAN raised issues around logistical challenges and financial considerations related to staff allowances, as well as desire to leverage existing facilities in Lagos, the primary hub for over 60percent of FAAN’s activities.
The agency stated that the final headquarters’ location depends on constructing new offices in both Lagos and Abuja.

FAAN’s relocation is coming after over three years after Hadi Sirika, the former aviation Minister, ordered all aviation agencies to move to Abuja.

Contrary to popular belief of a complete relocation, only a contingent of personnel moved to Abuja in 2020, and they are now returning to Lagos for an unspecified duration, according to Funtua, a former General Manager.

Supporters, especially in Lagos, view the move as a long-overdue correction. They argue that Lagos is the nation’s busiest aviation hub and should be the natural headquarters of FAAN.

This, they believe, will streamline operations, cut costs associated with maintaining offices in both cities, and enhance efficiency.

“It’s only logical,” says Adebayo, a Lagos-based businessman.

“FAAN belongs in Lagos. It’s where most airlines operate, where most of the work happens. Having them in Abuja was just inconvenient and expensive,” Adebayo said.

However, not everyone shares this enthusiasm. Critics, predominantly from the north, viewed the relocation as a sign of regional bias and a potential blow to Abuja’s economic clout. They argued that moving a major agency south undermines the north’s contribution to the national economy and could set a dangerous precedent for future relocations.
With FAAN staff likely to relocate to Lagos, some fear a cascade of negative effects on the capital’s economy.

“Won’t this relocation make people jobless in Abuja?” Peter, a taxi driver in the city, asked.

Timing is wrong – Rafsanjani

Awal Ibrahim (Rafsanjani), while also speaking with BDSunday on the issue, described the decision as coming at a” wrong time.”

Ibrahim, who is the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CSLAC), noted that “Ordinarily, no one would have frowned at the propposed relocation plans, but it is coming at a time the government is seen as taking certain decisions that are anti-North.

“There is ongoing rumour about huge budgetary allocation for renovation of the Presidential residence at the Dodan Barracks Lagos. There is also the rumour about the President’s promise to relocate the federal capital back to Lagos from Abuja.

“So, those who are opposed to the relocation of the FAAN and CBN offices see the decision as part of the move to fulfil the process of relocating the federal capital back to Lagos.

Like Adeniyi, Ibrahim believes however, that the Tinubu administration should pay more attention to tackling unemployment, poverty, insecurity and corruption.

He regretted the selfish approaches adopted by the ruling elite to issues of national interests, adding that “they have neglected the weightier issues of insecurity, poverty, unemployment and the deadly issue of hunger currently ravaging the country.”

In a swift reaction to the alleged plans to relocate the federal capital back to Lagos, Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, described the insinuation as the handiwork of “mischief-makers, bent on fueling needless ethnic mistrust.”

He noted that they have deliberately misinterpreted the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to relocate its Department of Banking Supervision to Lagos and the directive of the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should relocate its head office back to Lagos

The rumours, he said, first surfaced during the electioneering last year, sponsored by Tinubu’s political opponents looking for all manners of weapons to prevent him from being elected as president by a section of the country.

He noted that those renewed sordid narrative, using the recent decision of the CBN and FAAN as pretext to start another round of toxic opposition are dishonest ethnic and regional champions, trying to draw attention to themselves.
According to him, “The status of Abuja as the Federal Capital has come to stay. It is backed by law.

“The movement of FAAN, an agency of Aviation Ministry, to Lagos, where it was located before former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, moved it to Abuja during the last administration, does not amount to moving the Federal Capital to Lagos.
“The administrative move should have ordinarily attracted scant attention, as Lagos is the commercial capital and the hub of aviation business in Nigeria. FAAN will still maintain some presence in Abuja. It is not a wholesale movement.”

He also explained that the movement of the Department of Banking Supervision of the CBN to Lagos should not trigger any discord within the polity, adding that “the department concerned deals with commercial banks, almost all of which have their headquarters in Lagos.

“All those pushing this campaign of falsehood and misinformation know they are merely playing politics, albeit a dangerous politics, to pit the North against the South.

“There are many parastatals that are not based in Abuja depending on their mandate. The headquarters of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), for example, are in Lagos. In the same vein, the headquarters of National Inland Waterways Authority( NIWA) is in Lokoja, while that of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), was commissioned by former President Muhammadu Buhari is in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.”

Onanuga pointed out that the decisions are purely administrative that should not be politicised by people of goodwill and those who wish “our country well.”

According to him, “President Tinubu-led administration is working tirelessly to be just and equitable to every section of the country. We urge restraint on the part of those whose stock in trade is to create all manner of dangerous rumours to distract every government from the noble objective of meeting the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.

“Our citizens desire nothing but good governance that positively impacts their lives. Rumour mongering is a pernicious disservice to this ultimate expectation of our people.”