Monday, 22 January 2024 04:49

ACF joins Northern Elders in rejecting relocation of CBN, FAAN offices back to Lagos

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Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has kicked against plans by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to relocate their offices to Lagos.

The ACF, in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Tukur Muhammad-Baba, described the plans as a ploy to further under-develop northern Nigeria.

The CBN had, in a circular issued on January 13, notified its staff about the plan to transfer its key operational directorates to Lagos to “decongest” its headquarters. “This initiative aims to ensure compliance with building safety standards and enhance the efficient utilisation of our office space.

“The action plan focuses on optimising the utilisation of other Bank’s premises. With this plan, 1,533 staff will be moved to other CBN facilities within Abuja, Lagos and 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 circular read in part.

But the ACF, after a meeting of its leadership with Aliyu Wamakko yesterday, declared its strong opposition to the moves by the two federal government agencies.

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) had on Friday flayed the plan, and said it would widen economic disparity between the North and the South.

Two days after the CBN announced its office relocation plan, Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, via a memo dated January 15, 2024 and signed by the Managing Director of FAAN, Olubunmi Kuku, ordered the relocation of the agency’s headquarters from Abuja to Lagos.

The ACF, while expressing its opposition to the idea yesterday, said that while it is easy to ignore such planned actions by the CBN and the FAAN, it is impossible to fail to see in them as a clear pattern of thinly disguised marginalisation of the North.

It said the CBN’s decision “fits into a disturbing pattern of antagonistic actions” often taken by certain federal administrations against the interests of northern and other parts of Nigeria.

“The CBN’s announcement was followed by another from the Federal Ministry of Aviation’s Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria’s (FAAN) plans to also relocate to Lagos due to shortage of office space and claim of the volume of air traffic handled by Lagos. The proposed actions of the two agencies, i.e. CBN and FAAN are precipitous and mala fide. Still on the Ministry of Aviation, only 8 of 40 directors recently appointed are from the North!

“As if deliberately designed to be made public in drip-drip fashion, a leaked letter to the Minister of Aviation from a contractor, AVSATEL, became public, wherein the company sought permission to relocate the project for refurbishing Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Vehicles (ARFF) from Katsina to “the south” or Abuja, but sneakily mentioning Lagos, Ibadan or Enugu. AVSATEL sought to rationalise its suggestion on issues that must have been in the scope of the works when the company bided for the job but which it clearly ignored then,” the forum stated.

The ACF said the planned actions by the two agencies were a grand strategy that was not entirely new.

The forum recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first action in office in 1999 was to order the relocation of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) from Abuja to Lagos.

It noted that almost all agencies and institutions responsible for the marine economy and especially the sea ports are today concentrated in Lagos, “which retains undisturbed monopoly over port operations and sea traffic in and out of Nigeria, even as Calabar, Uyo and Port Harcourt offer as much, if not better facilities.

“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,” the ACF said.

It said northern Nigeria in particular had long lived under the shadow of these threats, and had endured a series of calamities as a result.

The ACF said 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. For decades, certain powerful interests within the federal government, who seem scared of the North, have refused to allow the projects to be undertaken,” it further stated.

The ACF said it remained unconvinced that the government agencies trying to relocate to Lagos would be doing so on any noble grounds.

It called on the federal government and the National Assembly to call on those agencies to retrace their steps and apply other honest means of addressing the alleged over-crowding in offices.

“Against the situation in Lagos, there is plenty of land in the Federal Capital Territory for expansion of office and other infrastructural facilities and such factors should not be used to obfuscate sinister motives.

“Katsina remains the location of the ARFF, as in the original scope of works. AVSATEL should not try to hoodwink the FGN with untenable drivels designed to short-change the North.

“ACF wishes to remind all concerned that decades ago, the seat of the capital of the Federal Republic was moved from Lagos to Abuja for reasons that remain valid, it is constitutional even more so today, constitutionally so, although, of course, a section of the country never liked the decision,” the forum said.

 

Daily Trust

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