FeaturesFEATURES: A Sense Of Entitlement Or Legitimate Demand?

FEATURES: A Sense Of Entitlement Or Legitimate Demand?

January 28, (THEWILL) – That is the question Nigerians on two divides are trying to find answers to at the moment. On 18 January 2024, Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku MD of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) sent a memo to Mrs. Obiageli Orah Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection that the agency under the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development will be relocating to Lagos from Abuja. The memo originated from the minister himself Mr. Festus Keyamo three days before on January 15.

Headquartered in Lagos for much of its existence since inception and after undergoing several reincarnations from Nigeria Airports A uthority to Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria in 1995, it oversees international, domestic operations and everything in-between from flight schedules to baggage handling and much else . But during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Mr. Hadi Sirika who was Minister of Aviation at the time ordered that FAAN and its ancillary agencies relocate to Abuja where it has operated from since then.

But just last week after consultations with stakeholders in the industry, Keyamo reversed the order. According to the ministerial memo, the move in 2020 was ill-advised in the first place because there was no single FAAN building in the Federal Capital Territory to accommodate all of them at once.

Glo

Apart from the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NEIMET) which had a structure in the FCT, Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had not completed their buildings there. Worse still, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) operated from a rented office in Abuja even though it had two structures in Lagos. Therefore, operating from Lagos would be cost effective for FAAN.

“The Minister has decided to stop this waste of public resources and rip-off on the public purse,” Mrs. Kuku’s memo stated. “The other option open to the Authority was abandon the old FAAN building in Lagos to rot away and to use its scarce resources to rent an office space in Abuja for millions of naira of public money when, in actual fact, more than 60 percent of its activities are in Lagos, given the huge passenger volume of the Lagos airports. The stakeholders and the minister decided against that and to save the country this waste.”

For reassurance, Keyamo’s memo said: “Abuja continues to have full operational offices and the Authority has not scaled down operations in Abuja one bit. It is just the technical decision of where the Authority has its ‘corporate headquarters’ that has been taken without affecting the structure of operations as they are for now in both cities. In the near future, when befitting corporate buildings have been built for the Authority in both Lagos and Abuja, a final decision will be taken as to the location of the permanent headquarters, depending on the exigencies of the time. The Authority wishes to assure members of the public that it will continue to act in the best interest of the public and the country.”

After taking off from Keyamo’s desk via FAAN MD’s office, the memo in question was yet to land on the desk of middle managers when news got around that Central Bank of Nigeria had given a similar order to relocate some of its department to Lagos from the FCT. Haba!

Members of Arewa Consultative Forum were unimpressed. Both orders from different departments in the Federal Capital Territory was simply too much for some elders of the north who saw it as aiming to “under-develop the north.” Faster than winging a bird in flight, ACF called out both orders for its calculated disregard for northern interest.

“The CBN’s decision is no means of isolated or normal administrative action to fix some logistics problem,” Professor Tukur Muhammad Baba National Publicity Secretary said in a statement following the relocation orders. “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. The CBN’s announcement was followed by another from the Federal Ministry of Aviation’s Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN’s 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.”

More galling to ACF is that out of the scores of directors recently appointed in the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, “only 8 of the directors recently appointed are from the north!”

So, from this sense of loss, the ACF is now making a legitimate demand for FAAN and CBN not to relocate to Lagos.

Senators from the north have also weighed in their support. In tandem with ACF, the lawmakers are riled about the relocation of the government agencies to Lagos and the “lopsided allocation between the North and South in the 2024 budget,” insisting that the development was “designed to further under-develop the North.”

Speaking for the lawmakers, Senator Suleiman Kawu Sumaila of New Nigeria Peoples Party representing Kano South says there will be further consultation with the relevant authorities – “the executive arm of government, the National Assembly and stakeholders to address the issues.”

“As representatives of the people at the national level (Senate), we are committed to addressing the concerns and feelings of our constituents regarding certain decisions and policies put forth by the federal government – lopsidedness in the distribution and allocation of resources in the 2024 budget, relocation of some federal agencies from Abuja to Lagos,” Kawu said. “We understand the importance of fostering a harmonious relationship between the government and its citizens, and it is in this spirit that we are announcing our collective efforts to seek an amicable people and their government, and it is with great responsibility and dedication that we undertake this task.”

Though not as direct and straight to the point as ACF concerning the relocation of FAAN and CBN, Suleiman’s statement on behalf of the northern senators was somewhat solicitous. “We acknowledge that our constituents have shown great patience and trust in our abilities thus far. It is now our turn to ask for their continued support and understanding during this critical juncture. Together, we can work towards resolving the issues at hand and restoring faith in our democratic process resolution to these pressing issues, within the confines of our constitution and existing laws.”

To those who think that the demands of the ACF and Northern Senators is a sense of entitlement, the response has equally been swift. National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Jare Ajayi has said that FAAN and CBN were originally in Lagos, insisting that there is nothing “wrong in the planned relocation if it will enhance the agencies’ performance.”

Continuing, Ajayi maintained that “we even understand that the structure for some of those departments were constructed during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari. It is not as if this administration is starting something new. In many countries, there are some government agencies that are spread to various parts of the country. In this particular case, we don’t see anything wrong with it. Each of these departments is manned by officers from various parts of this country. What should be uppermost in the minds of all Nigerians is performance. As an organisation, we do not encourage nepotism and we do not say that projects should be concentrated in a particular area.”

Likewise, Middle Belt Forum National President Bitrus Pogu ribbed the ACF stand on relocating FAAN and CBN to Lagos. “It is unfortunate that this country has not become a nation yet. Up till now, some people only think of themselves, their enclave, their tribe, their religion and not Nigeria,” adding that “some of these agencies are better there in Lagos.

“Where is our stock exchange? So if you relocate something or organisation that has its command to Lagos, does it take away anything from the North? Has the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, been taken from the North to the South? It is not even the North, Abuja is central Nigeria and not North. That is why the Gbagi and others were told that there is nothing like tribal group in Abuja. It is the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, for everybody in Nigeria. So if some functions and agencies are taken to the South, it doesn’t amount to anything, it does not amount to witch-hunting the North. So we should not be reasoning in this manner against the South.”

Though Pan Niger Delta Forum has maintained a studied silence on ACF and Northern senator’s position on the relocation, one of the senior citizens from the Niger Delta Chief Edwin Clark has added his voice to those calling out ACF and the senators. “There is nothing wrong with relocating some departments of the CBN to Lagos. Who did they consult when they moved the Navy to Kano, when they brought the Shippers House and the Nigeria Maritime Authority, NMA, to Abuja before former President Olusegun Obasanjo moved them to Lagos?

“Northerners should realise that Abuja does not belong to them, it belongs to everyone hence they are fighting Nyesom Wike because they believe that FCT belongs only to them. They are 19 states. Others are 17. The place is for all of us. Let us stay in peace, the Northern senators and Northerners should not provoke anyone. Abuja belongs to all.”

Equally critical of the ACF and the senators is Arewa Consultative Youth and Women Forum (ACYWF).

In a statement and reaction to ACF by Alhaji Adamu Mohammed Matazu National President of ACYWF, “it does not matter the location the office is sighted, provided that efficiency and productivity are not compromised,” saying that “we read with total shock how some of our people have decided to trivialise issues of national importance like the relocation of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria office to Lagos.

“What we have not yet understood is what they stand to gain in all of these. We have a plethora of issues begging for regional emergency and attention. We are faced with insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, and insurgency across our land. We have countless IDPs centres that should rather bother us on how to relocate them to their ancestral homes.

“It would have been a good discourse if our Northern elders are talking to the President on how to relocate these IDPs, create rehabilitation centres for the victims of attacks, bring humanitarian interventions to the people, creating more empowerment for the people and getting some of the moribund cottage industries and factories in the north to work again…If moving FAAN to Lagos will bring the desired reform and change the face of the Aviation industry for the betterment of all Nigerians, we the youths and women leaders from the North are fully in support of it. We believe in one Nigeria, and we believe in the progress and development of this nation.”

About the Author

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Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist with many years experience in print media. He is currently a Special Correspondent with THEWILL.

Michael Jimoh, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Michael Jimoh is a Nigerian journalist with many years experience in print media. He is currently a Special Correspondent with THEWILL.

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