...Redifining Journalism for Development

Relocation Of FAAN, CBN Departments: The forgotten considerations, by Adam Suleiman Uba


Relocation Of FAAN, CBN Departments: The forgotten considerations, by Adam Suleiman Uba

I was in primary school in the late 80’s when my grandfather of blessed memory taught me a lesson in the dangers of putting all of one’s eggs in one basket. He told me many stories about the virtue of saving for the rainy day and introduced me to the use of a piggy bank.

But I ran to him one day crying that the piggy bank and all the money therein had been stolen, and he scolded me for putting all my little savings in one, rather than at least two such ‘banks,’ saying I shall keep the second one with my uncle.

And so, several years later, now as a grown up adult with my own family, I have not repeated the mistake of putting all my eggs in one basket, such that upon my graduation from the university, I readily deployed all my savings over the years to start a flourishing business in my home state of Kano.

When the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced measures to decongest their operational offices in Abuja to other parts of the country, especially, Lagos, I was shocked to see some ethnic merchants reading negative meanings into what is a simple, rational administrative measure aimed at enhancing productivity and saving the country billions of naira.

The same irredentists were nowhere to be found when countless federal institutions were either relocated or outrightly established in Daura, Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown when he was Nigeria’s president.

But the issue currently at stake has nothing to do with copying President Buhari in allowing the concentration of agencies of government in the state of origin of a serving president. This argument is about Lagos and whether it is right or wrong to locate a federal institution there.

Over the years, one of the major topics of discussion often raised as a solution to weak corporate governance in Nigeria is reducing the cost of governance across all sectors, especially at the governmental level.

From the text books that we read, to professors of economics down to current affairs analysts in the new and traditional media, there has been a unity of opinion that Nigeria can only get it right if it defies vested interests to reduce the ballooning cost of governance said to be one of the highest in the world.

Take the FAAN, for example. It is an indisputable fact that about two-thirds of flights in Nigeria operate from Lagos. This automatically makes the same ratio of its operations to be in Lagos.

But because the administrative headquarters of FAAN was forced out of Lagos, the organisation has been spending billions of naira, year-in, year-out, in different payments to members of its staff to oversee operations across the entire aviation sector of the economy on a daily basis in Lagos.

This is because aviation is one of the most sensitive industries anywhere globally. It deals with human lives. Any poor supervision or regulation could easily lead to loss of human lives. I am sure those criticizing the Federal Ministry of Aviation for approving the return of the headquarters of FAAN to Lagos have not factored some of these credible arguments in their condemnation of the issue at stake.

For them, everything begins and ends in ethnicity. And so, they started the unfortunate campaign of calumny that the movement of certain parastatals of government to Lagos is aimed at creating an undue advantage to the city.

It is so easy for them to convince the less informed because the president of the country is a Lagosian, and for them, blackmail is the tool to portray such movements along ethnic lines.

The same people could not see reason in the simple, very logical argument that the movement of certain departments of the CBN has more to do with safety and cost-saving measures. But then we all know that there are people who will never see anything good in any policy in as much as it does not favour their pockets. They pretend to be doing it for the people. Unfortunately, it is all about self-enrichment.

Today, it is so simple to convince the unwary against any policy of government owing to the precarious economic situation the nation has found itself in, but which the Tinubu administration, through the CBN and its top notch management, is working round the clock to extricate Nigeria from.

One of the videos being widely circulated against the CBN’s policy of decongesting its headquarters is that of a former minister who served in what everyone believes to be the worst government in the history of Nigeria. Till today, billions in different foreign currencies, especially the dollar. are being returned to the country as part of the Abacha loot.

Yet, this former minister who was a key part of all the sleaze, is now engaging in grand standing, leveraging on this ‘opportunity’ to get back at the Tinubu administration that has been working hard to cleanse the mess that that same person and his cohorts have thrown Nigeria into. And some Nigerians who have forgotten where the man is coming from are quick to believe him and his bunch of lies.

When you own a house and the builder tells you he can only guarantee its safety if it does not exceed a certain number of inhabitants, who do you blame if you ignore his advice and something tragic happens?

In the case of the CBN, the builder, whose national and international reputation has never been in doubt, wrote to the current management about the danger inherent in ignoring the warning it has been issuing over the years, to the effect that almost doubling the occupancy capacity of the CBN headquarters in Abuja aggregates to a disaster waiting to happen.

Now, for God sake, imagine the consequences if this same management had gone ahead to ignore the warning simply because of the fear that its actions could be misperceived and twisted in a negative light.

A leader worth the name is one who takes the correct action even at the risk of being abused or misperceived. In a simple plain language, the implication of ignoring the warning would mean that the building or certain components thereof (like the over-worked elevators) could collapse and kill people in multiple numbers, probably in thousands.

The Yemi Cardoso led management of the CBN is composed of Nigerians from all parts of this great nation. There are Hausas, Igbos, Yorubas and others in the day-to-day decision making platform of the CBN.

Yet, those criticizing this simple move are doing so as if only the governor, who happens to be a Yoruba, took the wise decision.

And what is wrong with Lagos? Some people are behaving as if Lagos is no longer a part of Nigeria. They have forgotten that it is a city that for decades served this country very well as its federal capital. From Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the incumbent, Lagos has had the fortune of producing one excellent governor after the other. These are leaders who sacrificed their yesterday for the good of our today. Because of the excellent leadership they provided, Lagos has continued to attract millions of Nigerians from all nooks and crannies, looking for opportunities to excel.

And Lagos does not discriminate. It is a centre of excellence that has turned Aliko Dangote, a Hausa man from Kano to the richest person in all of Africa. All the people in the list of top ten richest persons in Nigeria are based in this city of endless possibilities. It is because Lagos has continued to attract the best of our money men and women that headquarters of almost every commercial bank and big businesses are in Lagos.

One wonders why these ethnic merchants have not queried these banks and businesses for having their headquarters in Lagos. The reason is simply the same as smartly locating a branch of a bank in a big market. The banks are there to make money and contribute to the economic fortunes of Nigeria. And they cannot afford to waste resources in sponsoring their members of staff to operate on a daily basis from Abuja to Lagos, if, for example, they had based their head offices in Abuja.

It is not just about saving money. The logic also has everything to do with the value of time. Yes, we are in a digital age where decisions can be taken without physical presence. But go to any branch of a bank today and see for yourself the high number of customers, especially in the customer service counters. What this simply means is that there are decisions that can not satisfactorily be taken without the customer being physically present.

The CBN deals directly with the commercial banks. And they are all in Lagos for the noble reasons stated. Therefore, in as much as Lagos is a component part of Nigeria and not Ghana or Benin Republic, there is nothing wrong if the FAAN or the CBN move the entirety of their headquarters to that city.

It will, in doing so, save Nigeria billions in operational resources that could now be deployed towards other noble purposes, such as primary healthcare or our public universities that are crying for more funding.

With closer supervision, our commercial banks are more likely to grow bigger and more resourceful, to compete better with their peers anywhere on the globe. When you as head of a family are at home, everyone tries to do what is right, but the story is not likely the same when you are away from home.

In other words, the banks will sit up and serve Nigerians better now that the key departments responsible for their supervision and other actions are in the same location as them. What the banks can do wrongly and escape punishment when the supervisor was in Abuja, will now attract his wrath since he is together with them in Lagos.

This includes dealing with the endless accusations against certain banks that are alleged to be facilitating money laundering and contributing to the economic adversity of Nigeria. The closer supervision that this move will occasion will, as much as possible, ensure Nigerian banks could no longer be used by financiers of terror to kill innocent Nigerians and destroy the society.

Just because President Tinubu is a Lagosian should not mean we should close our eyes and ignore the vast economic opportunities inherent in Lagos decades before he assumes his present office. We can not see Lagos in a bad light even when it keeps widening its arms in a warm embrace of welcome to all Nigerians.

The issue of what the Arewa Consultative Forum describes as widening the economic disparity between Lagos and the North does not arise. For me, a fellow northerner, the ACF should lead in ensuring only our best are elected as governors and legislators across all the 19 northern states.

As a state, we all know that Lagos does not need the FAAN or the CBN to continue on its path of unprecedented prosperity. The gap will continue even if you remove all the federal establishments operating from Lagos, and it could only be closed when our leaders in the north and the south, across the board, govern with the same sense of purpose that Bola Tinubu started and maintained with a string of credible successors.

Tinubu was the first to prove that Lagos can stand on its own without necessarily the resources accruing from the centre. He did that when he governed Lagos without statuary allocation to its local councils.

In reality, for them to prosper and serve the people more directly, many other federal parastatals will not be at fault if they relocate parts or the whole of their head offices to Lagos.

It is a Yoruba city but which has Nigerians of all shades earning their livelihood there much more than the Yorubas.

So when you take any federal agency to Lagos, you are not doing so for the Yorubas. You are doing so for the Hausas, the Fulanis, the Igbos and every ethnic nationality in this great nation called Nigeria.

Naturally, some members of staff affected by these movements are not happy. Human beings are known to resist change. We all prefer to remain in our comfort zones, without knowing that our ultimate prosperity most likely lies outside that zone.

In reality, they should count themselves lucky because they are going to find themselves in a city that welcomes all Nigerians and provide for them a real home. It is a city that pushes you to succeed. Lagos has turned the fortunes of millions of Nigerians and made them successful global players. The list is endless.

So, the next time any big man or woman tries to confuse or pitch you against the government of the day, ask the person to mention the number of classrooms he built for his community, or the indigent students that he truly sponsored to acquire education. Yet, almost all their children have schooled or are schooling abroad.

The elite spearheading this campaign of calumny are doing so not for you, but surely for themselves.

Malam Adam Suleiman, a board member of Ethical Journalism in Africa, writes from Kano State.

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