Bola Ahmed Tinubu | File Image
By Emeka Alex Duru
You would notice some discomfort by certain individuals and groups from the northern part of the country over the Federal Government’s plan to relocate the Headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority (FAAN) and some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Lagos. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have been championing the agitation against the move. Next are the senators from the zone.
In a bid to sound patriotic, the groups lace their arguments with sentiments of saving cost and preventing service disruption. But ACF is more emphatic in alleging that the planned relocation is an agenda to further under develop the north. The senators on their part, have rather injected blackmail, with subtle threats of dealing with President Bola Tinubu in 2027, when he comes for re-election, if he carries on with the policies.
The bone of contention is a recent internal memo by CBN in which it announced plans to transfer some of its departments to Lagos State, citing congestion at the headquarters in Abuja and other reasons. “This is to notify all staff members at the CBN Head Office that we have initiated a decongestion action plan designed to optimize the operational environment of the bank. This initiative aims to ensure compliance with building safety standards and enhance the efficient utilization of our office space,” the CBN said.
The relocation of FAAN was officially announced by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, in a memo dated January 15, 2024, and signed by the Managing Director of FAAN, Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku.
ACF, NEF and senators from the north, have ever since, been literally on heat. They give reasons for opposing the moves by the government, that on the surface, look tempting. The movement, involving increased costs, loss of talent, disruption in operations, sounds logical. So also, is the fear of the relocation causing temporary disruption in the CBN’s operations, as employees would need time to adjust to their new surroundings. But they are not convincing. Part of the undertakings by an employee on assumption of duties, is the willingness to move to any location his employer asks him to go, except on extenuating circumstances.
The stance by the norther groups, is understandable. It is often what obtains when a system has been used to a particular pattern, not minding whether it serves its constituting units or not. Such an arrangement breeds a mindset that makes the beneficiaries develop a certain feeling of entitlement that others are bound to serve them or do their bidding. In such instances, those who count themselves as among the privileged, appropriate divine rights of making all the decisions for the people they see as working for them. If you see that as a form of paternalism, you are not entirely wrong. But it approximates more to prebendalism in which some people feel they have a right to a share of government revenues, and use such to benefit supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group. When some people ascribe to themselves the noxious claim of “born-to-rule”, that is what fuels their audacity.
For eight solid years, the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, almost made it a state policy to parcel out more than 80 percent of strategic security, political offices and institutions to the north, to the sheer disadvantage of other citizens and regions of the country. At a point, almost 95 percent of the headship of the military and para-military outfits in the country was under the firm control of his northern kinsmen.
His native Daura in Katsina state, even had an unfair share of federal infrastructure. Apart from state-of-the-art roads, Daura had a Federal Polytechnic, the Nigeria Air force Reference Hospital, the Women and Children Hospital, the Federal University of Transportation, and the proposed dualisation of Kano/ Kongolam highway designed to pass through the city as well as the School for People with Special Needs.
Other projects were the Nigerian Airforce Response Air Wing (Quick Response Unit), the Nigerian Army 171 Battalion Base, Daura, the Forwarding Operating Base of the Nigerian Army along Kongolam road, the National Directorate of Employment Centre, Ganga, Daura, upgrade and expansion of Daura Mini Stadium, the Sustainable Development Goals Skills Acquisition Centre, Zango Road, Daura, completion of the Sabke Dam and the 73km 132KVA line from Katsina to Daura and two 30 and 40 MVA transformers to boost power supply.
Rather than seeing himself as the President of the entire nation, Buhari preferred being a strong man of his region. That is why Nigeria is currently in a mess. Unfortunately, President Tinubu is taking similar parochial measures, in some degrees.
So, when the government is tinkering with decentralization of the CBN departments and relocation of FAAN Headquarters to Lagos, the focus should be on the merits of the actions. Lessons of elementary economics are that industries or outfits are located in areas of proximity or access to raw materials and easy movement of finished products. With most of the banks and airlines in the country having their headquarters in Lagos, taking FAAN and some CBN departments to the city won’t be a bad idea, if properly implemented. Since the decentralization of the operations of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), registration of companies and ease of doing business have been greatly enhanced. That should the way to go. Again, the uncertain security situation in the country, does not encourage concentration of key national institutions in one particular region.
But beyond relocation of FAAN and decongestion of CBN to Lagos, other parts of the country need to be carried along. There is no logic in keeping the headquarters of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited in Abuja, when the nation’s oil resources and exploration activities take place in the South-South Region of the country. There is no justification for the undue concentration of military installations in Kaduna, with the entire South East having marginal presence of such facilities. Nigeria is not solely about Lagos (South West) and Abuja. All the six geo-political zones should have equal share of federal presence.
Framers of our constitution were not wrong in considering the Federal Character principle as a way of ensuring that no particular section dominates others or is dominated. Section 14(3) of the 1999 constitution as amended, captures it that: ‘‘The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.’’ The saying that what is good for the goose being good for the gander, applies here.
Let the decongestion and relocation of strategic government institutions go round the component parts of the country. Tinubu should not repeat the mistake Buhari made in seeing the country from the narrow prism of his region of birth. Other zones equally matter.
DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos