Public-Private Partnership is Essential To Governance

-Alhaji Ahmed Rufa’i Mohammed, IoD Nigeria’s 15th President

In this interview by our editorial team, Alhaji Ahmed Rufa’i Mohammed, current President/ Chairman of Governing Council, IoD Nigeria hinted on his plans for the foremost corporate leadership institute, while observing that Corporate Governance is crucial to effective entrepreneurial and prudent management for a long term success. Excerpt:


What would you say are the major achievements of IoD Nigeria since inception?

Thirty-four years down the line, the achievements of the institute have been substantial. Our major objectives are two fold: good governance advocacy and capacity building of directors and leaders of businesses. In both areas, IOD Nigeria has achieved a lot. We have provided capacity building for directors in the public and private sectors on a continuous basis as the major plank of our objective.  In these  capacity building trainings, we expose these directors to matters and subjects  that will help them to create and  sustain the growth of their companies and ministries. As a director or leader, you have to properly study to understand the duties of directorship so that you can perform the role expected of you by shareholders and stakeholders alike. Governance and management are two different concepts.

Board members are supposed to understand that they are different from members of management. Board members govern by strategy, observing  basic governance issues such as ethics, integrity, accountability, transparency, conflict of interest resolution, succession planning and risk evaluation and so on. The Institute of Directors Nigeria  has been at the forefront in promoting governance objectives and training directors in  the best manner to  run their enterprises in all these past years. The Institute   has trained many Permanent Secretaries and Directors both at Federal and State levels and several  corporate board members and top management of listed and unlisted companies.

One of the major challenges we have in Nigeria is governance. There is need to understand governance as a concept. The private sector in any country is by and large  responsible for the growth of the economy of that country  and that is how it is supposed to be in Nigeria. And the private sector succeeds only because directors and leaders in that sector govern well

We train directors or would be directors to be professionally competent by  imbibing corporate  governance values. Our achievements are accordingly well appreciated by our members, the government and all those who come into contact with the Institute.

What are your plans for IoD Nigeria during your two-year tenure?

My plan is to transform the organisation into a better one than it is today.  We have had many presidents who have done very well. I will draw from their experiences and the continuous knowledge of members who have been with us for some time.

My goal is to build an institution and not myself as an individual. I want to see the institute grow to an extent that every director in the country will want to be a member of IoD Nigeria.

We are really working presently on how to give value to our members in terms of training, networking and sharing experience.

My immediate plans include getting IoD Nigeria to become a chartered organisation , create a forum of young directors , establish an international training centre, and make  the institute an employer of choice for its employees and job seekers. .

In what way does IoD specifically promote corporate governance in Nigeria?

The most effective manner in which the Institute promotes corporate governance is through its formal training programs entitled Corporate Direction Courses conducted in three stages: I, II and the advanced course. These are conducted in-house and in-plant. The IoD also organises special sessions for deliberating on governance issues either in seminars, workshops or round table discussions by experts. The Institute has specifically established a Centre for Corporate Governance which undertakes researches in corporate governance and issue ‘governance guidelines’ of best practices in corporate governance across the globe. Our advocacy role includes issuing private organisations and relevant government organs such researched guideline notes. Our relationship with government at state and federal levels is also basically on building capacity especially for civil servants at the level of permanent secretary. Because at that level, these high-level executives are like the CEOs of their ministries and a lot is required in terms of building their capacity to help the civil service to be efficient like in the private sector.  And we need to understand that governance is very wide and that good governance is key to success, but there are certain basic fundamentals that must be gotten right.

One of the major problem we have in Nigeria is good governance at many levels and facets.  Private sector in any country has been responsible for the growth of the economy and that is the way it is supposed to be in Nigeria as well. And the only way we can make that happen is by engaging the government, because the government controls the economy to a large extent, to prove to it that the private sector is capable of providing the necessary governance that will lead to success. Luckily, the Nigerian private sector has exhibited that capability and therefore there must be a gradual transfer of government activities to the private sector in respect of those areas not social services inclined. Today in many countries the railway system is privately managed for better efficiency mostly through the Public Private Partnership (PPP). So, the only way we can grow our economy profitably is by opening it up to be private sector driven.

The economy is run by two sectors, the private and public sector. But if the government does not have confidence in the private sector, it will not transfer those rights to manage and drive the economy to it. Because government creates the policies and also polices the business environment through regulations to ensure that the right things are done and that rules are adhered to, the private sector must exhibit good governance practice and we in IoD use advocacy to engage both parties.        

In terms of advocacy, what is the relationship between IoD and the government?

The relationship has been cordial. We have engaged various governments at all levels through some of our programmes, such as in the training of permanent secretaries and directors, organising round table conferences with ministers and other policy makers in attendance and actively involved.  We discuss with the policy makers on how policies should be evolved in order to help the private sector businesses succeed and grow the economy. The public appreciates our strong advocacy through seminars, annual conference, and these training programs.

What are the benefits to members in the private sector and economy as a whole?

As an institute of directors and leaders, we focus on creation of unparalleled networking opportunities among business leaders, creation of a learning environment for members through our various events including members conferences and workshops and establishing and issuance of guidance materials on best governance practice. Socially, our members enjoy a life insurance scheme paid by the Institute, generous discounts for star hotels, airlines and local airport lounges and are allowed access to facilities of IOD affiliates including the variety of services at the famous Pall Mall secretariat of IOD Uk when they travel to London.

Nigeria n economy tilts more towards the public sector; how can the Government ensure an economy that is private sector driven?

You cannot turn the economy around unless you have the knowledge and knowledge does not exist in government alone. Many of the executives in the private sector have trained themselves and continue training themselves to understand how they must drive their enterprises to be productive and make success out of them. People who do this have the knowledge of how the economy should run; so, there is a continuous dialogue/engagement between the private and public sector for the government to take itself away from those activities that are not government activities, instead they should set the policies and police the business environment – which is the way it is supposed to be. Most economies of the world are growing today because they are being led by the private sector. When you are appointed as the CEO of a company, you present a forecast to grow that company properly and make it perform better, and we can see clearly this is the only way to follow to grow our economy – by moving away from what we are not competent to do to allow those with competence to do them efficiently.

Therefore, the government should create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship and allow itself to formulate friendly policies to attract better investment.

A partnership between the private sector and government through PPP (public-private partnership) will go a long way in making things better. For instance, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport II is one of such. From what we see on the outside, they seem to have shown some success. We can see improvements because it’s private sector-led. It’s now doing well.

What challenges does the institute have?

There are challenges everywhere but we focus on turning those challenges into opportunities. One of our challenges is becoming a chartered institute and we are already working to overcome it. We had a public hearing with Senate Committee on Public Service. It was a successful public hearing and we are expecting that the third reading in early 2018. We are also going through the House of Representatives early in 2018. Other challenges will continue to be there but we are continually working out strategies to overcome them.