FAAN, CBN Relocation: Operational or Ethnic Cleansing?


The Federal Government few days ago ordered the relocation of the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) headquarters from Abuja back to Lagos.

The directive by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace, Mr. Festus Keyamo, was contained in a memo dated January 15, 2024, and addressed to the Managing Director of FAAN, Olubumi Kuku. It read: “The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development has directed that the Headquarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should be relocated from Abuja to Lagos.

Consequent upon the above, you are requested to provide the implication of the relocation to the management.”
Earlier in the week, the Central Bank of Nigeria had announced the relocation of some key departments in its Abuja headquarters office to its Lagos branch, where head offices of about 99.8 percent commercial banks and other financial institutions are located.

In a memo announcing its decision, the apex bank said: “The action plan focuses on optimizing the utilization of other bank’s premises. With this plan, 1,533 staff will be moved to other CBN facilities within Abuja, Lagos, and other understaffed branches.

“Our current occupancy level of 4,233 significantly exceeds the optimal capacity of 2,700 designed for the Head Office building. This overcrowding poses several critical challenges.”

The apex bank also explained the reason for its decision to include strategic approach, alignment, and redistribution of departments and staff to its functions and mandate. It also includes skill distribution, embracing geographical mobility, and process optimization. According to the Bank, ‘ongoing reorganization is not a random shuffle but a targeted effort towards process optimization.

While high net worth Nigerians have applauded the rationale behind the two government agencies’ decision, which include the Good Governance Watch Initiative (GGWI), the aviation workers, and former CBN deputy governor, Kingsley Moghalu. They all welcomed the rationale believing the relocation which ought to have been carried out years back, will enhance productivity and effective supervision.

However, in a twist of event, over the weekend, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) rejected the planned relocation of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, and some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Forum’s National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Tukur Muhammad-Baba in a press statement issued and titled: Planned Relocation of Key CBN Units, FAAN Headquarters to Lagos said “The management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently announced plans to relocate some of its key departments from Abuja to Lagos, understandably sparking a wave of anxiety and outcry from many Nigerians, especially Northerners who obviously would be most adversely affected by the spontaneous exercise”.

Continuing it said, ‘the CBN’s decision is no means isolated or normal administrative action to fix some logistics problem. Rather, it fits into a disturbing pattern of antagonistic actions often taken by certain federal administrations against the interests of Northern and other parts of Nigeria. (Emphasis mine)

The statement said Federal Ministry of Aviation Aerospace cued behind the CBN and announced its plans to also relocate to Lagos due to shortage of office space and claim of the volume of air traffic handled by Lagos. Muhammad-Baba said “the proposed actions of the two agencies, that is, the CBN and FAAN, are precipitous and mala fide.

It is disturbing in the present fragile Nigeria, divided on ethnic lines, and encumbered by insecurity to hear an elite forum, known to be populated by erudite and scholarly elders, and respectable Nigerians of northern extraction to be spewing such horrendous, divisive, and inciting words capable of escalating the sowed distrust deliberately by enemies of the country.

The Forum probably may have been hijacked by ethnic jingoists who did not see common sense in the reason provided by the two agencies, rather it beclouded itself with unfounded fear “when, therefore, the public condemns such obsession with relocation to Lagos, it is clearly reacting against a disturbing pattern of swindle perpetrated by some Federal Government officials against sections of the country …”.

Are the two agencies largely populated by northerners? The answer is No.

Continuing in its distortive and anachronistic vituperation said, “Northern Nigeria has long lived under the shadow of these threats and has endured a series of calamities as a result. It was only the successful discovery and exploration of oil along the Kolmani River, in Gombe State, that discredited the propaganda that oil does not exist in the North. The vile propaganda was to discourage the investment of resources looking for oil up North.

“Sadly, such has also been the case with a number of other federal projects meant to be located anywhere in the North, such as dredging of rivers Niger and Benue (so that the North remains landlocked), Mambila Hydroelectric Dam (Kainji and Shiroro are dams too many to be up North!), grazing reserves for the development of the livestock sub-sector, to list but a few”. The Forum said it was not convinced going by its conviction the relocation would be doing anything noble but fester the neglect of the northern region.

ACF’s harangued press statement if better thought out, should have considered the operational angle of the proposed action from politics, and from issues of ethnic sentiments. When staffs of the agencies were recruited, were they not told would work where they are best suited, and competent? These are operational issues considered to reengineer and refocus the agencies for effective performance and service delivery.

Murtala Muhammed International Airports is considered one of the busiest airports in Africa, compared to Abuja or any other airports in the country, and Lagos houses the head offices of both international and local airlines, traveling agencies, thus is it not cost effective to move the agency’s staff/departments closer for effective management?

Similarly, the Central Bank of Nigeria, except for two banks with their head office in Abuja, Unity Bank and Jaiz Bank, other 27 commercial banks are headquartered in Lagos. Thus, moving those key departments closer will engender effective supervision and examination. It will also save the CBN cost of accommodating its staffs who often spend one to two months away from head office to Lagos on assignments in hotels.

Geographical mobility through extensive branches networking will enable staff broaden their perspectives, enhances their adaptability, a recipe to foster stronger relationship, collaboration, not only across those organizations but Nigeria as a whole. This is one of the lessons, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) established by General Yakubu Gowon taught us, and still teaching us, thus, what is the difference for FAAN and CBN?

It is high time our elders who are the cultural and natural bonds that unite us, either stopped, purge or expel those divisive elements within them, polarizing the society for selfish reasons, or manipulating the institution they represent. More so that the so-called relocation has not taken place, it is still an intention, the Arewa Consultative Forum should have waited to see how the exercise is carried out before crying wolf if it was noble or not.

Chisom Adindu writes from Umuahia.

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