The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has expressed deep concern about the reported plans by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to relocate major departments from the Abuja headquarters to the former headquarters in Lagos.
It expressed its opposition to the move which, it alleges, would widen economic disparity between Northern and Southern Nigeria.
NEF, in a statement by its director of publicity and advocacy, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said the organisation recognises the importance of the departments in question, including Banking Supervision, DBS; Other Financial Institutions Supervision, OFISD; Consumer Protection Department (CPD); Payment System Management Department (PSMD) and Financial Policy Regulations Department (FPRD), as vital components of the CBN.
He said as stated in the BOFIA Act (Banking and Other Financial Institutions Act), the affected departments are crucial to the functioning of the CBN and, therefore, relocating them to Lagos will only serve to further strengthen the already dominant position of Lagos, while potentially weakening the significance and role of Abuja.
He said while the NEF acknowledges the CBN’s desire to improve efficiency and effectiveness, it is worried about the potential negative impact of relocating these essential departments on both the institution itself and the nation as a whole.
He noted that the movement would involve increased costs, loss of talent, disruption in operations, reduced coordination, regional economic disparities, impaired economic development in northern Nigeria, and decreased investor confidence in the nation’s economy.
He listed some of the potential consequences: “It would require significant financial investment as the CBN would need to allocate funds for setting up new offices, purchasing or leasing properties, relocating employees, and other infrastructural requirements. This would strain the CBN’s budget and divert resources away from other essential functions and initiatives.
“The CBN has a well-established workforce in Abuja, including professionals with significant knowledge and experience. Moving key departments to Lagos may lead to a loss of skilled employees who are unable or unwilling to relocate. This brain drain could negatively impact the CBN’s performance and efficiency.
“Relocation would lead to a temporary disruption in the CBN’s operations. Employees would need time to adjust to their new surroundings, potentially causing delays in decision-making and implementation. The transition period could result in reduced productivity, inefficient processes, and decreased service levels, further impacting the CBN’s effectiveness.”
It further stated that moving key departments to a different geographical location would hinder effective coordination and communication with other government agencies in Abuja.
“The CBN, as the nation’s monetary authority, relies on close cooperation with other bodies, such as the Ministry of Finance and relevant regulatory authorities. Physical separation may lead to increased bureaucracy and slower response times, negatively affecting policy formulation and execution,” it contended.
Furthermore, he said shifting key departments to Lagos, which is located in the southwestern part of Nigeria, would exacerbate regional economic disparities, adding that the concentration of such important positions and offices in one region may perpetuate the perception of Lagos as the economic centre, potentially marginalising other regions, especially Northern Nigeria, saying this could lead to increased feelings of neglect or economic imbalance, creating social and political tensions.