CBN “Relocation” and Other Matters

By Okey Ikechukwu

Consider this: (1) The Executive arm of the government of South Africa is in Pretoria, the capital city, while the Parliament is in Cape Town. (2) There is a physical distance of 1,453.2 kilometres between the two cities. (3) The head of the country’s Judiciary, South Africa’s Supreme Court, is in Bloemfontein, while the country’s Constitutional Court is in Johannesburg. (4) That is 369.3 kilometres between the two cities. (5) The South African President and his ministers are not anywhere near the physical location of the other two arms of government.

And South Africa is better governed today than Nigeria, where all the apparatus of state, and all its most critical institutions are within a radius of less than two kilometres in Abuja. In summary, contiguity, physical proximity and pretensions about some imaginary direct relationship between “being in the same physical space” and effective service delivery and good governance is a delusion.

A simple administrative matter from the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) has set many mouths on fire. The logic of the needed elbow room for staff, considerations about congestion, questions about a healthy working environment, concerns about underpopulated facilities, health issues and the need for greater institutional efficiency informed the decision. But see what has been made of it? ‘Ethnic bigots will always shout’, said Lamido Sanusi in support of this development. The presidency’s explanation, that Tinubu has no plan to move the federal capital to Lagos is not taken too seriously. So, what are the real issues?

Let us note, for the record, that the CBN did not hurriedly build some new facilities, with the intention of relocating some of its departments to the new-fangles facilities No! The bank headquarters is operating from a building designed for 2,700 staff. But the building currently plays host to 4,223 workers. That is well over 30% excess human and equipment load. There are subsisting warnings by CBN facility managers, pointing to the danger of exceeding the capacity limits of such a facility and maintaining that excess luggage. That this will also have security implications, besides the question of management of the physical space, is an issue on its own.

As indicated by the bank’s Human Resources department in its memo on the matter: “The action is … to ensure compliance with safety building standards and hence the efficient utilization of our office space”. The memo pointed out that the occupancy rate “… significantly exceeds the optimal capacity of 2,700 designed for the Head Office building”.

The foregoing and more give some context to the CBN internal memo notifying staff of management’s plan to move certain departments out of Abuja, specifically to Lagos, and under staffed branches in the country. Forthwith, allegations of bigotry and plans to denude ‘the north’ rented the air and the media. The issue of congestion at the headquarters did not matter to those talking. It was simply this: Those who felt duty-bound to speak for ‘the north’ on the internal fairs of the CBN staggered out in their numbers.

Senator Ndume fired the opening salvo, with all the heat and subtle threats that should ordinarily not be put out in the public domain. He warned of dire consequences. He warned the President to remember that they, the north, had the votes and that they would deal with him, more or less, if he toyed with the north. And Ndome’s submissions rested on one questionable, assumption, namely, that the Tinubu government was executing a well-designed plan to relocate the Federal Capital. Really?

Let us ask a few questions, before delving further into the substance of the political shadowboxing now on display. Is it true that the findings of a committee set up to examine, or review, the known concerns about the CBN facility made recommendations regarding what should be done – especially taking into account some considerations from the angle of structural engineering? Is it true that all the management did was to simply implement the recommendations of the committee? Can we honestly say that the new CBN Governor simply got a brain wave and decided to move some departments of the bank to wherever it pleased him? Is it fair, or honest, for those protesting to overlook the fact that the memo in question mentioned other facilities in Abuja, as well as “under-staffed branches.”

Now listen to Senator Ndume on this matter, during his interview on Channels Television: “…they do not know how Nigeria works and will not be able to help the President when the repercussions come.” Pray what repercussions is he talking about? Is he part of some kind of coup plot? Are there any “boys” working with, or for, the president? If the answer is ‘no’, then who are the ‘Lagos boys’ Ndume believes to be misleading the president?

He also seems to know both the boys in question and their thinking very well, because he goes further thus: “Some of them think that they know better than everybody. But they don’t know anything.  When you don’t know Nigeria, you only know Lagos, then you start doing things as if Nigeria is Lagos. Lagos is in Nigeria”. Hmm, some lesson in physical geography. Or, is it the political geography about which part of the country should always have its way?

Ndume went on to point out that Tinubu did not become president because of the votes he got from Lagos. “Those misleading the President are not doing him any good because this is going to have some political consequences”, he said. Then the clincher: “If Tinubu was not elected president, the CBN governor would not be there. It was not Lagos votes that put Tinubu there”.

This is way out of line for a Senator of the Federal Republic, if his focus is national cohesion, governance efficiency and much more. Oh, was Ndume here during Buhari’s eight years on mitigated nepotism and arbitrariness? Yes, he must have been. That is probably why he sees in the action of the CBN the imprimatur of Tinubu, who is not a staff of the bank.

“We will not accept it”, Ndume says. He continues, still: “…they are not doing any favour to Mr. President, because this will have political consequences. Yes, I’m telling you this. And these guys who are just sitting down there trying to hang on to Mr. President will not be there to amend the political mistakes or even to correct it because they don’t know anybody. They only know their offices. And they only know that they have brains.” Wow! Quite some heat.

In addition to Lamido’s comments mentioned earlier, Kingsley Moghalu who was a former Deputy Governor of the bank, has endorsed the move. It would seem, given the reactions to Ndume’s comments from various quarters, that the subject of congestion and other issues did not originate with this government at all. Kingsley has made us aware that the Lagos office of the bank was inaugurated 12 years ago. He was then a Deputy Governor of the bank.

Now just think about it. This Lagos office under reference has never been fully utilised. The relocation will simultaneously address the twin problems of congestion at the headquarters and the need to pay attention to structural issues and efficient service delivery. It is right and reasonable that the departments to be moved are the ones responsible for the business and financial processes and services needed by enterprises that are predominantly based in Lagos. Hear Kingsley Moghalu on this: “I don’t see any serious basis for such disquiet…Moreover, the market entities supervised by the departments that will move to Lagos are mostly in Lagos. So, what’s the problem? Seems a rational decision to me.”

This is what Mohammed Yakasai, a retired Director of the CBN, had to say, in response to the hullabaloo: “With the massive political employments in CBN, the Head Office is over populated. Majority of those young men and women prefer to work only in Abuja and the Head Office. I am of the view that what the current management is doing is corrective and should be supported. The thought has since been that most of the important banks Headquarters are in Lagos. Those departments that are supervisory in nature should relocate for effectiveness and cost minimization.”

He takes it further, by fingering the elite abuses that keeps populating the CBN headquarters with the pampered and entitled children of the political elite. In obvious satisfaction, Yakasai said: “Those young boys that were untouchable because of their political lineage are beginning to see the rule of law re-emerging. It is not their prerogative to determine where they should work. After all, everyone signed a declaration that the bank can post you anywhere. We are beginning to see the restoration of discipline in the system. The act of the new management should not be politicized.”

It would have actually been wonderful to relocate some of the branches to nearby Kaduna, Kogi, or Nasarawa states, as Ndume would have it. But are we talking of relocating just for the heck of it? And why his conspicuous preference for only northern states. Assuming that the CBN has existing, underutilised, facilities in the places in question, and would not have to rent a facility if it choses to send some departments to the states mentioned, how about security and the ease of doing business? Will Ndume travel to any of these states without continuous palpitations of the heart, because of fear of bandits and terrorists?

The fact that the South African Supreme Court is not in the same physical location as the country’s Constitutional Court does not undermine the country’s judiciary, or its administration of justice. The fact that the South African President and his ministers are not hugging the same building and lawns with the legislative arm of government has not undermined good governance, national security, or overall national service delivery.

The fact that the CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso, and the bank’s Deputy Governors may now be functioning outside the same physical space with some departments that used to be in Abuja does not mean anything, one way or another, in this age of technological efficiency and ICT enabled service delivery.

Relocating the Federal Capital to Lagos? How? Lets get real, please1

Related Articles