Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, recently ordered the agencies under the ministry to relocate to Abuja within 45 days. The minister issued the order via the ministry’s official Twitter handle, claiming that he was only implementing a presidential order that had been in existence since 2012 in the bid to cut down the cost of governance in the face of the current economic realities. Some of the agencies under the ministry are the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Accident Investigation Bureau, (AIB) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
To be sure, the Federal Government has the right to ask for the relocation of the agencies under the ministry’s watch as it deems fit and appropriate. However, the urgency of the relocation seemingly runs against the logic of priority and even expediency. According to the government, moving the affected agencies to Abuja in adherence to a presidential order would reduce the cost of governance. But the logic behind this assumption is suspect. It has not been proved that the country is currently disadvantaged because these agencies do not have their headquarters in Abuja.
As Nigerians are well aware, the bulk of the agencies’ operations is in Lagos and there is nothing to suggest that they will be better served by shifting their operational bases to the FCT. The cost of that relocation itself is prohibitive and it is certainly avoidable in the present circumstances that call for cost reduction at all levels of governance. What is so sacrosanct about the relocation of these agencies that it must be done so expeditiously, regardless of other important considerations?
Securing office accommodation in and around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has proven to be a nerve-racking exercise. This is borne out, for instance, by the recent altercations between the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic has almost brought the economy to a standstill. It has, to say the least, significantly hamstrung the execution of government policies and projects. Asking aviation agencies to move to Abuja within 45 days certainly fails to take cognizance of the effects of the pandemic on public finances and the need to preserve every kobo that the country can at the present perilous times.
The relocation of the agencies to Abuja will, in the interim, mean renting new office accommodation for the administration teams of these agencies, apart from the accommodation of other members of staff. Why should these agencies incur such costs that are ultimately borne by taxpayers at this time? We are persuaded that the rush to Abuja is not necessary. The reality of Lagos being the commercial hub of the Nigerian economy cannot be wished away by mundane, punctilious interests. Lagos, as Nigeria’s commercial capital, is quite conducive to the operations of these agencies, and it is certainly not for nothing that they have remained in Lagos up till now. The Minister of Aviation should revisit the idea of relocating the ministry’s agencies to Abuja.