Abuja, Lagos and the Economics of MDA Headquarters

Abuja, Lagos and the Economics of MDA Headquarters

The Advocate

By Onikepo Braithwaite


Onikepo.braithwaite@thisdaylive.com

Ibadan Explosion 

Ic ommiserate with everyone that was affected by the explosion which took place at Dejo Oyelese Street, Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State, last Tuesday, January 16th around 7.45pm. Several people well known to me, were affected. Their properties were either damaged, or destroyed. 

How is it that, a non-Nigerian for that matter, was allegedly mining in Ibadan without the knowledge of the Oyo State State (OSG) or Local Government, and how was he able to store explosives in a house located within a residential estate? A logical conclusion is that, people within the Federal Government set up must be complicit in this illicit arrangement. The word out is that, for instance, Chinese people are heavily involved in illegal mining activities in several parts of Nigeria. Last year, I read a news story published by the EFCC, about the arrest in Ilorin, of 13 Chinese citizens who were operating illegal mining activities in 13 local governments in Kwara State. This must be stopped immediately. And, the Government officials involved in this racket, must be punished severely. This is the height of economic sabotage. Section 1(8)(b) of Miscellaneous Offences Act 1984 prescribes a punishment of life imprisonment, for anyone convicted of mining unlawfully. It is a grave offence. 

Section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution) provides inter alia that, the Government of the Federation (FGN) is the owner and controller of all the mineral resources in Nigeria, while Section 1 of the Land Use Act 1978 vests all the land within a State in the Governor. Surely, there should be a collaboration between the owners of the surface of the land and the owner of what is beneath it. If OSG wasn’t aware of the activities of this mining company, it obviously means that OSG was being deprived of the 13% revenue that accrued to it from the mining activities – see Section 162(2) of the Constitution. 

Secondly, there are different ways and time frames, connected to storing explosives, aside from the fact that they are better stored in a detached building that has no occupants. Storing explosives in residential area, is unthinkable. While some explosives can be stored indefinitely, others have a storage time limit. The temperature in the area of storage is important, and the placement of the different types of explosives is also important, to prevent accidental detonation. In most countries, licenses are obtained from an issuing authority within the locality of storage, in this case, it should have been OSG.  

I call upon HE, President Bola Tinubu, GCFR (PBAT), in conjunction with OSG, not only to launch a sincere and thorough investigation into this unfortunate incident, but to ensure that those responsible for this dastardly act are arrested. The world has become a global village, and it doesn’t matter if the culprits have fled and are at large; with good intelligence and international policing, they can be found and brought to book. 

However, in the past, the Federal Government has been accused of issuing mining licenses to  foreigners, complete with Expatriate Quotas, without the knowledge of the State Governments. This must also stop.

Turning Nigeria Around

The sum and substance of the ‘Quotable’ of today on the previous page of this Publication, by Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, is that, as the President of Nigeria, empowered by Section 5 of the Constitution, it is the duty of PBAT to “shape issues” and chart the course Nigeria must take, as the buck stops on his table. This is correct. Dr Agbakoba then went on to ask an important, in fact, crucial question – that is, like American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, does PBAT not want to go down in history as a great leader (who turned the fortunes of Nigeria around)? Something tells me that, the answer to that question is in the affirmative. 

However, the truth of the matter is, turning the fortunes of Nigeria around, will not be a walk in the park. And, it certainly cannot be achieved by making ill-founded, flawed decisions based on sentiments, tribe, mediocrity, and unsound economic bases. This is part of what has led Nigeria into this terrible condition, of course, coupled with corruption, using Federal Character and Quota System to scrape the bottom of the barrel, instead of  the brightest and the best, et al. To be candid, continuing with this all-too-familiar ‘losing formula’, will certainly not earn PBAT or any other leader that chooses to follow this recognised and known path to failure, a good place in History. It is certain, to do the opposite!

At our 2023 NBA Annual General Conference, in his address, PBAT mentioned that utilising over 90% of our revenue to service debts, is unacceptable. I concur, and so should any right-thinking person. In that case, the onus is on PBAT and his Executive, to work assiduously towards achieving the Economic Objectives set out in Section 16 of the Constitution, particularly Section 16 (1)(a) & (b) which emphasises on, inter alia, promoting an efficient, self-reliant and dynamic economy to secure the maximum welfare and happiness of the people. This can certainly not be achieved, if decisions are based on siting institutions or agencies in places where they can never be viable and should therefore, not be located, simply to assuage ethnic sentiments or affirm feelings of domination over others. 

Unfortunately, Nigeria still finds herself very much entangled in this type of negative and regressive mindset, hence, the alleged comment by the spokesperson of one of the Regional Socio-Cultural Groups, stating that relocating some of the departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Lagos would strengthen the dominant position of Lagos, and reduce the significance and role of Abuja. Should that be the concern, or rather, whether the proposed relocation will enable CBN function optimally, and better serve the needs of the country if these departments are relocated to Lagos? We really must stop this kind of unproductive talk. Are we not all Nigerians? When FGN relocated to Abuja, did the civil servants not relocate too? Did they not incur relocation expenses? So, why should it be a problem now, if it is a prudent and sensible decision to relocate certain agencies to Lagos or wherever they really should be? 

History of Lagos as a Commercial Centre and Capital City

The Federal Capital Territory is the Nation’s capital, while Lagos has always been the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, because of its strategic location and its appurtenances thereto, like the waterways etc. As far back as the 15th century when the Europeans started coming to Africa to trade, in Nigeria, they conducted their business in the coastal harbour of Badagry, Lagos. It was because of the waterways that Lagos  earned its name, which I believe means ‘Lakes’ in Portuguese. 

In the early 1900s, the British who made sound economic decisions just for their own benefit, also chose Lagos as the capital of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, and subsequently, the capital of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria after the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914. There were obviously strategic economic reasons why these foreigners chose to situate the Nigerian capital in Lagos, and not Ibadan, Kano or Enugu. Just like Brazil relocated its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, the centre of the country, in a bid to unify the country in 1960, the Nigerian Military decided to move the nation’s capital to the landlocked Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in the early 1990s, also on the ground that it was the centre of the country. 

Sound Economic Decisions 

We are all Nigerians, whichever zone we hail from, and we should be concerned about what is best for the progress of our country, above sectional, group or individual interests. When the Nigeria LNG headquarters was situated in Victoria Island, Lagos, it didn’t make much sense, since the centre of NLNG’s operations is in Bonny, Rivers State. Therefore, relocating their offices to Rivers State, was a sound economic decision.

We talk about the unnecessarily high cost of governance in Nigeria. The solution to this problem, goes beyond reducing staff strength and reducing bogus and unjustified salaries, to cut this cost. Prudent economic decisions, must also be made. 

Examples

In the first place, when Government was relocating to Abuja in the 1980s, agencies or departments that better serve Nigeria and the people’s interest by being in Lagos or wherever they were, should have been left where they were. 

For example, does it make sense to relocate Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) or Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) from Lagos, a coastal City, where most of their activities are, to landlocked Abuja where there is no waterway, maritime or port, simply because Abuja is the new seat of government and they are Government Agencies? No!

Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has been relocated to Lagos from Abuja, because the bulk of its activities are in Lagos. It has also been revealed that despite the fact that, like FAAN, most of the activities of NAMA (Nigerian Airspace Management Agency) are in Lagos and NAMA also having a purpose built office in Lagos, NAMA was also relocated to Abuja, where offices are being rented at an astronomical rate. The rented offices are not spacious enough to contain all the staff, and some staff are apparently observed ‘hanging around’! The staff travel to Lagos regularly, since most of their official activities are in Lagos, incurring travel expenses, and they also collect Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) (a daily stipend from Government for every day an official spends out of their station of posting). FAAN had exactly the same story. Does this make economic sense? No!

The Federal Government took a loan of about $150 million to build the new international airport terminal at Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, in order to expand the airport’s capacity and increase its revenue. The interest payable on the loan, is about $2.5 million per month. However, only about 30% of that new terminal is being utilised, because the entrance to the Apron on one side is being blocked by two Hangars whose annual rental payment to the Government is $12,000! Large aircrafts, from which FAAN would derive much more revenue that can be used to service the $150 million debt, are unable to access the blocked Apron. Does that make economic sense? I think not. Does it not make better economic sense for the two Hangars to be relocated to another part of the tarmac to make way, the relocation cost and compensation for loss of use during the relocation, borne by FAAN, so that the new terminal can be put to full use?

Conclusion 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record or Cacofonix, I reiterate the fact that the essence of governance is clearly stated in Chapter II of the Constitution, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. And, for PBAT to leave his footprints in the sands of time, his focus must be on his administration achieving these goals. While Section 14(1)(c) of the Constitution gives the people the power to participate in government, and Section 39(1) guarantees our right to freedom of expression, we must refrain from making baseless inflammatory statements which serve no purpose, except to heat up the polity and breed resentment amongst Nigerians, contrary to the Preamble of the Constitution which preaches consolidation and unification of Nigerians. 

Why should we insist of siting a gold mine in Lagos, when the bulk of gold in Nigeria is located in States like Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger State (Northern zones), or prospecting for oil in Kano or Ibadan, when the bulk of the oil/gas deposits are in Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and some other States in the South? Would it not be more fruitful for the resources of Nigeria to be harnessed and pooled together for the maximum welfare, benefit and happiness of all Nigerians? (Again, see Section 16(1)(a) & (b) of the Constitution). 

Similarly, Federal Government agencies should be located where they are best suited to be, for maximum output. We need to do more research, prior to going public with some of our inappropriate or inaccurate statements. It is also time to drop some of these our parochial views, in favour of our collective interest. 

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