SLS Speaks On CBN Relocating Departments To Lagos

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SLS on the CBN and moves on relocating departments and functions

There are a number of errors in the previous write ups on the CBN’s initial strategy on departmental locations.

I did not demolish the old building. The credit for the design and the contract for the new Lagos building goes to Charles Soludo. But it is true that I did the formal foundation laying ceremony when JB brought the building to ground level, and I opened the building and used it before I left the CBN.

There was no “blue print”. Yakasai may have been informed by someone of conversations among the governors ( and he was not present in those conversation) in which we proposed that DG FSS and his departments move to Lagos and he could come to Abuja anytime for meetings.

Kingsley Moghalu was happy with the arrangement but we did not have time to come round to it.

Having said that- moving certain functions to the Lagos office ( which is bigger than the Abuja head office) is an eminently sensible move.

In my mind what I would have done was to move FSS and most of Operations to Lagos such that the two Deputy Governors would be largely operating out of Lagos or, even if they were more in Abuja , the bulk of their operational staff would be in Lagos.

Economic policy, Corporate services and all the departments reporting to the Governor directly such as Strategy, Audit, Risk management, Governors’ office etc would remain in Abuja.

It makes eminent strategic sense. And I would have done this if I had stayed.

All this noise is absolutely unnecessary. The CBN has staff manning its branches and cash offices across the Federation.

Moving staff to the Lagos office to streamline operations and make them more effective and reduce cost is a normal prerogative of management.

The problem we have now is that many employees are children of politically exposed persons and their Abuja life and businesses are more important than the CBN work.

The CBN is just an address for them and if they have to choose between their spoilt Abuja life and the job, they would gladly leave the CBN.

All the more reason for the Governor to put his foot down and get rid of those elements they are dangerous for the bank’s future.

Having said that I think the CBN needs to get a few things right.

First, the question of locating functions is a STRATEGIC and not tactical one. A proper analysis should be done to identify which roles are best suited to Lagos and which to abuja. Once the logic is clear the people then follow. Non communication of strtategic intent opens the door to mischievous misrepresentation and arbitrariness.

I dont like the idea of arguing that the office structure can not handle the staff numbers. I am sure Julius Berger would refute that if they wanted to engage.

Second, individual situations should be considered. As much as possible we should be empathetic. For example young mothers with kids in school who do not need to move can be prioritised to stay in Abuja or those with medical conditions etc

Third the CBN needs to focus on the exchange rate and inflation. Once it has control of these it earns credibility. Once CBN has credibility the Governor is untouchable.

So long as people think CBN has lost control of its key mandate everyone can make it a target and simple things like this- staff movement- become an issue it has to defend itself on.

When the CBN delivers on its mandate it can push through any changes no matter how tough and ignore the noise.

My advice to the Governor is to go ahead with his policy. Once the CBN starts bending to political pressure on one thing it will continue doing so.

Northern policians will shout that this is moving from Abuja to Lagos. Abuja is a federal capital not a northern issue. So long as this is a principled decision the noise should be ignored.

When i was about to license Jaiz bank there was a lot of religious noise from CAN etc. Even enlightened people like Okey Emelamah were going to sue me to court on religious grounds. I ignored it and licenced the bank. Nothing happened.

A christian Governor after me licenced at least two more non- interest banks. No one is even noticing again.

Ethnic and religious bigots will always shout. The CBN should rise above it and just do what needs to be done. It is a very unpopular and difficult job and the Governor needs to be tough.

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By Abia ThinkTank

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