How Organizations And Government in Nigeria Can Adjust To ‘’The New Normal’’ In A COVID-19 Pandemic by Bode Ayeku, President of Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN)
The President and Chairman of Council, Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), BODE AYEKU, in this interview with GLORIA NWAFOR, spoke on the need for government agencies to migrate to electronic approval platforms to reduce the high rate of corruption in the country. He also spoke on the need for the public sector to have compliance officers to help entrench corporate governance practices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, he talked about how organisations and government can adjust to the ‘new normal’ electronically, among other national issues.
How would you describe the level of adherence to corporate governance among institutions in Nigeria?
AS regards adherence to corporate governance, the private sector is doing extremely well, even though there is still room for improvement. In the past, it was individual companies dealing with each other, now there are platforms where senior executives meet to benchmark information-sharing on best practices. The role of corporate governance is for the best interest of the stakeholders, investors and the government because there is the need for sustainability of businesses, and the need to entrench corporate values for businesses to succeed.
The challenge with the public sector is that there is no code of governance yet. During the public hearing in 2016, some of the public institutions called for the need to amend the existing laws setting them up, as the points stated in the code would infringe on their statutory positions. However, the point the public sector should capitalise on pending the time when there would be a code for them is to ensure that every institution, agency and parastatal has a compliance officer who is a chartered secretary, to help entrench the practices of corporate governance. It is for their interest. If you know the roles reserved for the company secretaries in the existing code for the private sector, then you will know the reason why a compliance officer must be in the public sector. In the private sector, it is mandatory; you must have a compliance officer, a senior management staff, who is well-positioned with vast experience to give independent advice.
How prepared do you think Nigeria is to adapt to the ‘new normal’, especially with the poor electricity supply and expensive internet subscription?
In as much as no country prepared for COVID-19, this is the time to assess all the countries in terms of their ability to manage crises. This is calling on all sectors on the need for massive investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). But the major problem is with the public sector, as the private sector does not have much problem with that.
This is the time to migrate to digital archiving of documents, and retraining of staff. Such training is necessary for the government to leverage technology to eliminate corruption and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Also, massive investment in ICT would also be helpful in electoral processes to eliminate compromise, ballot-snatching and mishaps with transporting ballot boxes. COVID-19 has brought about a change in mindset and the way things are done. When you take away physical interactions and you say deal with us electronically, many issues with corruption, compromise, unethical practices and bureaucracy would be done away with. I would expect the government to this year say they are investing in training its staff on ICT and migrating to digital stores, which would enable access by anyone in any part of the world. Even as the government proposes closure of the 3rd Mainland Bridge for six months from July, I urge businesses to put in place facilities that would enable employees to work from home. This will help to reduce health challenges resulting from long hours in traffic by commuters. Emphasis should move away from presence and focus on productivity.