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Non-compliance to corporate governance in Nigeria worse in private sector – NIM president
Munzali Jibril, an emeritus professor and a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission is the president of Nigerian Institute of Management, NIM. In this interview he said he has re-set management of NIM as the institute was going off-track in terms of the way it was managed. His idea is to ensure thorough corporate governance in NIM. He told BusinessDay that he has drastically reduced the amount of money spent on the presidency activities believing that the incoming president in November this year is likely to tow his line. Within his 2-year tenure, Jibril has also brought top-notch lecturers during the NIM’s periodic lectures. Excerpts;
You are having a conference on corporate governance and institutional performance next month, what informed the choice of the theme of the conference?
Lack of corporate governance is part of the problem of this country, whether in the private or public sector. When you look at the wrong things, it will be discovered that corporate governance is being flouted. The framers of the Constitution and their wisdom created the National Assembly as a check on the enormous powers of the executive but National Assembly is not performing that function. Most of the time the members are pursuing their selfish interest. Certain chairmen of committees are competing with ministers of the same portfolio. Some of them flout the provisions of Federal Character in employment. There is conflict of interest. Even some governors embezzle public funds. Officials should not allow personal interest to interfere with their official responsibilities.
How is this possible in a society with low moral values?
It is possible. There are examples of Nigerians who have done it successfully. Most of the politicians of first Republic complied with ethics of corporate governance. For example, when Nnamdi Azikiwe was a major shareholder in African Continental Bank and there was a problem, he exited the bank, in spite of the fact that he founded the bank. Some of the founding fathers of NIM, like Gabriel Onosode are people of integrity who did not allow their personal interest to influence their official function.
What do you hope to achieve with this forum in Abuja in September?
We have speakers like Christopher Kolade, a thorough business manager; Sheik Abdallah, former minister of Agriculture and Nat Ofo, former legal company secretary, Nigerian Breweries and past president of Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. They would enlighten participants at the conference on the corporate governance rules and how they should be applied. In fact we are no where in terms of corporate governance in Nigeria.
Looking at the topic, how would you then rate corporate governance in the last two years of this administration?
I believe that at very top, the President and his deputy are people of high integrity. I also believe that quite a number of the ministers are people of integrity, but I can’t say that for everybody. The selection process of cabinet was not as thorough as it should have been. Quite a number of people appear to be good but when placed in position of authority they turn out to be something else. Overall, it has been good but not perfect. We are having revelations about the previous governments, there could be such instances in this government but it has not come to the surface. What matters is the top, if the top is clean, when there is a problem, it will address it. If we adhere to the principle of corporate governance in the public and private sectors, corruption would be minimized. Top managers have enormous powers that some individuals are afraid to challenge them. Managers in both public and private sectors need to follow the principle of corporate governance in their practices.
Would you say that sanctions against those flouting corporate governance are adequate?
They are not adequate. The sanctions are there in the law books but they are not effective. In this country, we all know that if you steal government money and you can hire the best SANs who know the system, it will be difficult to convict you. But we can get around all that. We can set up special courts and sanitise and purge the judiciary. The raid by EFCC on judges’ homes, whether it was right or crude process, however exposed certain things. There was a judge that withdrew from a case he was handling simply because the wife of one of the accused visited his (Judge’s) wife. This is the caliber of people we need.
Why do you think that the rate of failure to comply to corporate governance is growing?
The system is corrupt. Sometimes, if an individual commits traffic offence, the police collects bribe and looks the other way. What they do is to open your car and enter as if it is their car. This is crazy practice. For instance, with BVN there should not be escape for stealing money but we are not doing much about it.
Between public and private sector, where is non-compliance of corporate governance worse?
Non compliance to corporate governance is worse in the private sector. Though there are regulatory agencies but most of the time, things that happen are below the radar. But in government, the regulatory system is stronger. At each level, people are being monitored by those who are superior to them. There are many pockets of fraud in the private sector compared to public sector. Though the volume of money involved in public sector per individual could be more as one person can embezzle so much but given what we have seen in the banks, I believe there is more rate of failure of corporate governance in the private sector in terms of incidences and not on scale. Again, corporate governance means that even if you own a company, you must follow certain due processes to do certain things. But some MDs collect money at will from accountants and use it anyhow. This is against corporate governance.
How can we enthrone corporate governance?
More systematic work is required. There are organizations where the reward system is clearly inadequate, for example, the Police where the reward system is inadequate to take care of the welfare of the officer. In this country, we are telling the police to supplement since they are not given enough.
How has your institute assisted its members and government to achieve corporate governance?
We are still in the process and that is why we are holding the conference. Our Code of Conduct demands that we put service above self etc and we recite it and our members are meant to subscribe to the rules of corporate governance. I don’t say that we have achieved much except sensitization. It is a process and I believe it will take a long time to secure the buy in of the country as a whole. Again, corporate governance would assist in the Ease of doing Business. For instance, when a foreigner comes and he goes through many offices to get something done, and each office is a toll gate, this is frustrating. Those who comply to corporate governance are always successful and it leads to institutional good performance.
The country has been experiencing challenges in the last two years and government has been coming up with policies, to you, what are right and wrong policies that government made?
I will start with the right policies. For the first time in the history of this country, there was attempt to address social security issues. Maybe government is starting gradually but what we really like to see is a full blown welfare system. This should go with efficient and stringent tax system to pay for the welfare. The challenges in rise of crimes are all related to the level of youth unemployment and skills gap in the country. There are millions of people who have no skill to sell and still they must survive. When poor people see flashy cars, they dream for the cars either to get them legally or illegally and this leads to crimes. We need welfare system and youth employment. I am not aware of bad policies but government needs other good policies.
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