The Nigerian Forces Reward is the first private sector led reward and benefit platform for the Forces including the police and the military, both for those in active services, the retired and their dependants. In this interview, Sunday Okobi spoke with Mr. Adeolu Ade Adewunmi, Managing Director/CEO 4SM Multi-Consult Ltd, whose company is championing the forces reward scheme, about the features of the scheme
The Police Reward Card, what is it all About?
Interestingly, the Forces Reward cards are two and I need to elaborate on this, to stress how it works or the package in its entirety. Now Forces Reward is actually the umbrella scheme that encompasses the Police welfare Card that is the POLCARD and the Defense Welfare card that is the DEFCARD respectively, the DEFCARD covers the army, navy and air force. The police welfare card and the defense card is a priority card that is the first of its kind and I proudly say not only in Nigeria but in the sub-region that sits on a tripod, one is an identification card, two is a transaction card and three, it is a benefit card, so that is why it is a multifunction card that works seamlessly on this three planks.
It is personalized to ensure that there is some security for the person and the merchants we are engaging on this project; two, it is for transaction because it can be used on all ATM and POS platforms and it is acceptable on all bank platforms and it is a benefit card because there are benefits that are already packaged inside that card because of the services of the security personnel to the nation. So it is not a card that is meant for everybody but exclusively for the security sector. And again I make bold to say that for the first time you have a card that because somebody is serving the nation, putting his life in the line for the nation, there is a trickle down.
Because he is serving, his family members, three dependants that are connected to him can also benefit and enjoy the facilities that same card can provide. So by virtue of your service to the nation you have a card you can secure for yourself, the same card you can secure for your wife, the same card you can secure for two of your dependents that are above 16 years old and they can enjoy some or more of the benefits like you do enjoy also.
What qualifies you to delve into such high profile specialist area?
I actually voluntarily retired from military intelligence exactly 10 years ago to pursue a career in international peace and security; it was a voluntary attempt, a risky one at that but it turned out to be worth the risk. The career has been awesome since then, that would help me delve into why the concept and idea of forces reward came into being. It was actually as a result of the experience out there, having served in Guinea, worked in ECOWAS, worked with the Carter Center in Atlanta, worked with the ECOWAS Commission across the sub-region and interfaced with security sectors, security personnel within and outside the sub region, and outside the continent.
It was discovered that this people, they are appreciated, are recognized and rewarded uniquely by the society and we don’t seem to do that here, in this part of the world , we are not doing enough in that respect even if we are doing it. So that informed the idea and it took two years to develop this, it was in the pipeline for over two years because it needed serious thought processes and engagement across board before we came out to the public.
It was just to have an instrument that can cut across the continent. Forces Reward is actually an African brand and products that can work seamlessly for the security sector to boost their morale, to encourage them, to support them and ensure that the private sector drives it, not necessarily the government.
What necessitated the reward card?
I started by saying I left the system like ten years ago and across board, there is usually a feeling or the shock when you are leaving especially a military structure or security sector structure and you are getting yourself integrated into the civil society, you are coming with a regimented life style, and you are coming into the society where you were not really appreciate even while you were in service, but then you need to be reintegrated into the society where you have been neglected.
So what informed this is to compliment government’s effort to support the security sector but specifically private sector driven to generate the interest of the private sector to support the interest of the security sector for their service to the nation. We are aware, that once you are done with uniform, you are a potential target anywhere by criminal minded people, so it is not everybody that can wear the uniform. Because you did that you are imperatively expected to be accorded recognition, respect and reward for your service to the nation. So by this instrument we want to begin to generate the interest of the private sector and the generality of the society, that look, this people are doing more and we need to support them.
They may not go on strike as often as possible like others do, they may not come out in the open and make much noise that these are the challenges we are facing because of the nature and structure and their service, but people that are close to them know what they need and are going through. As obtainable abroad, an individual, a security personal can pick up a card, he has a veterans card, a loyalty card, a reward card and goes into any merchants shop, that has already pledged some measure of discount for their services and present his card for transaction, by the time they see the individual with the card, they accord him special recognition and respect, ‘Wow! you are holding a veterans card, please you are welcomed sir, we need to attend to you specially, and the person is offered customized discount that has been pledged.
So it is not for everybody in the society but specifically for this people, so that is part of what informed the project. It’s obtainable abroad. In developed countries, for instance, we have it in US, the Veteran’s advantage is active in the US, Reward for Forces is active in the UK, and the Discount card, also active in the UK, so it cuts across and we have to come into our system, our own sector and see how we can model something that fits into our system. We are not talking about best practices but we are talking about best fit into the Nigerian system.
When are we expecting this card to become operational here, what are the seeming technicalities involved in using this card?
Fortunately and interestingly, the POLCARD has been unveiled and is already in operation. We are already receiving overwhelming interest and been inundated daily by serving and retired (personnel). I am proud to say that this is also the first time we have a card that covers the active personal or retired, so whether you are serving or retired, you are entitled to this card, it is processed for just N1, 500.00. You have the card and enjoy the associated benefits for two years.
The individual that is securing the card knows that even at the first transaction, when you do your transaction with the first interface with the first merchant that has already pledged discount on product, your N1,500 has already come to you and we are saying that you have a card you can use for two years and renewable every two years. So for the active personnel he has the leverage to enjoy this card and for the retired, because of their services to the nation in the past, we are also saying they also have the leverage to enjoy this card and three dependents in their family.
What are the benefits of using this card?
One of the critical benefits of this card is that and is personalized with their picture is that they enjoy customized discount between 5- 40 per cent to as much as 40 to 45% discount across the board,, across different merchants, across the country. We are talking about different merchants that have pledged their company’s interest to support the security sector, support the security forces that is the police and defense.
We are talking about merchants which ranges from food and beverages, chemical and pharmaceuticals, we are talking about, restaurants, petroleum product retailers, transport companies, inter states and within states, we are talking about cinemas, it cuts across. Customised discounts from all this companies pledged towards the security services for their services to the nation, which ranges from 40-45% depending on the merchant.
No 2, this same card because it is unique and priority card offers them credit facility for financial emergency from our partners banks, today we are in talks with Heritage bank, we have seen quite a number of interest from other banks and we will be able to accommodate all the other banks before the end of this month so that people can begin to enjoy this credit facilities from several other banks also. But in the meantime, you have your salary account in the Heritage Bank; you can enjoy the credit facility immediately. No 3, the card comes with a hundred thousand naira that is already insured, it is embedded. This is significant because, I give you an example, we are aware it is on record that between 2014 and June 2016, 359 active personnel died in active services.
The society is oblivious of this. If you break this down, we are talking about 14 personnel per month and this are and this are fathers, uncles, aunties and parents and bread winners that people are not aware, so critically, we have put this in place for them to have it as their immediate palliatives for their NOK, ( Next of Kings), so if anything happens to you in the line of duty, be guaranteed that there is a N100, 000.00 that comes to your NOK immediately, because even in the system there is usually a delay in processing benefits when anything happens to any personnel in the line of duty, so this one is instant.
No 4; this card also guarantees, we want them to be able to access universities that they never thought they could send their dependants to. We are talking about private universities and even government universities. We are talking about private universities, they are coming just to appreciate security personnel and their dependants. A serving personnel or the retired ones or their dependants may also want to further their education. For instance, Igbinedion University is offering any card holder 15% off tuition fee, if you are coming in trickles, one by one for registration, but at a particular time they have up to 10 at once, holders of POLCARD or DEFCARD or either of them, you are guaranteed a 30% discount off tuition fee from Igbinedion University, Lead City University is also offering.
So that is the kind of measure we have put in place around this card, so private universities and government universities are coming on board this scheme to support them. Finally and most importantly, because you are a holder of this card and you can secure one for your dependant, your dependant that is looking for a job or career opportunity or development today can be better placed in any of our merchant location or outlet to secure a job because it is a priority card, the kind of engagement we are having with our merchants is such that if there is an opening, any holder of this card must be given priority if they are eligible. If they are eligible they are given priority career in career employment with any of our merchants that are on board this scheme.
Conversely, I need to stress this, we are not talking to everybody that is why it is unique, every merchant we are talking to today, to support the security forces for their services to the nation, we are also telling them, that because of what they are doing, because of the discount you are giving them, by your measure of support, you are also demanding more from the security forces, to be more responsive and more proactive, it is a symbiotic relationship. We are not just telling them to give just by given sake, it’s to give to support because you want them to do more, you want them to be more motivated and efficient, you want them to do more, to be more proactive, you want to be more efficient and do more.
We have similar projects in the past and some of them fell part, what are the measures you put in place to sustain this?
This is not one of the projects that have gone by in the past; it is uniquely package and well-structured and has a long term effect on the system and the society. It took us two years to package the forces reward together before we unveiled the POLCARD, we will soon unveil the DEFCARD for the defence sector. When we talk about sustainability and long term, we are not oblivious of the fact that people would be skeptical because of schemes that has gone bye in the past and people just disappear with people’s money.
As we speak, the Police Service Commission (PSM), the umbrella body overseeing the Nigerian police force, and the Nigerian police force itself, very actively and very much involved in support of this project. The MOU we have now existing with the Nigerian Police Force is six years agreement renewable. We do not intend to come into the security sector space to come and display or act likes a flash in the pan. We have a long time agreement with the security agencies to ensure that this project is sustainable.
It is not only that, this project is not meant for Nigeria alone, it cannot fail in Nigeria, Forces Reward is an African product and brand that is replicated in other countries, so it is not just a Nigerian product. When we are talking about implementation and sustainability, there may be that skepticism that ok, Nigerian product, this actually is an African brand that has a long lifespan.
What are the security features to protect the card from cyber crime?
We have been able to put critical security measures in place, but you know there is one thing about security and also something about incentives. Once you try to take your step ahead, somewhere you will have a competitor or interest that will want to take a step further. What we have done is to ensure that we sustainably stay ahead. We cannot rule out the fact that some people somewhere, fifth columnist is not uncommon, I mean people steal people’s ATM cards and all that, but we are able to put security measures in place so that the holder or owner will not need to panic so much about the security of the card.
One, it is been personalized and been induced so that you alone knows the pin used in operating your card, if your card is stolen like your ATM card , all you need to do is communicate with us or with the issuing bank and the card is blocked. And you request for another one, we have been able to put all this in place to ensure the safety of cash in the card because it is a prepaid card and to ensure the security of the individual card holder.
What is the benefit of the partnership? You are partnering the forces, is there any benefit on both sides?
There are whole lots of benefits, we are talking about changing the narrative regarding the security sector, the security operations architecture within the society, we are talking about effective community policing, we are talking about policing or security at the local level, so that the person that has a shop at the local level that provides the security man a discount over his or her services, is already creating a network, an interface whereby he or she is ensuring that his morale is boosted and the man is much more responsive and more effective even at that level. By that we are also saying that we want to reduce, it may be difficult to eliminate, reduce corruption within the security sector and the private sector.
I will give you an example and a scenario; it is possible for a branded bus branded A, that plies a normal route, through a check point where police are gathered, and this time around, because the company A is already offering discount to policemen on POLCARD or forces reward scheme, the driver or whoever is in charge of that process has the right and mandate to decline to offer 20 or 40 naira on the route, why if the policeman at the checkpoint stop the driver that oga, give us 20 naira or 40 naira before we can leave you to go, we want to encourage a narrative where the driver can say, oga, you never get your POLCARD, we dey offer una discount ooo, go collect your own because people dey enjoy from our company well wellooo.
What about benefits to Merchants?
We are going to merchants with volume and value; we are talking about a closed group of people that we can guarantee consistent patronage from your product and services and for you to just give them something attractive for them to come regularly with their families, you can’t get it elsewhere. Talking about value, because you want an improved business climate, you also want them to come back to you and smile at you. We are changing the narrative that a police man or security man walks into the bank and say, don’t you know me, I no-go greeooo, it should not be like that, just introduce some civility into the system.
What sectors are you looking at for these merchants?
We are looking at all sectors, and we want to appeal through this medium to merchants out there that know and understand and know the value of the security of lives and properties in this nation. Many of them have said police are barbaric; police are not good, they are corrupt, the military are too aggressive, they are this and that. In what ways as company, as a private entity are you trying to change that narrative? That is the question, this is one of significant platforms and measures you can look at. We are looking across board to onboard several merchants that have direct impact on their daily needs; across boards, we are not limiting ourselves, the airlines, transportation companies, food and beverages, health sectors across boards, there is no limits.