President of the Institute of Directors, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed spoke to journalists on the role of the institute in promoting the culture of corporate governance in Nigeria, among sundry issues. Ugo Aliogo presents the excerpts:

Sir, we meet you?
I am Ahmed Rufai Mohammed. I am the 15th President of the Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD). I joined the institute in 2005 and had served as the 1st Vice-President, Vice-Chairman, Nomination and Governance Committee and Chairman of Finance and General Purpose Committee of the Institute. I have also chaired the institute Centre for Corporate Governance in 2015 and had hitherto served as the chairman of the Abuja branch of IoD.

I am a professional Investment Manager, with over 30 years’ experience in Project Development and Portfolio Management which I garnered through extensive work and courses in these fields. I hold a Post Graduate Certificate of the Manchester Business School in Banking and Development Finance and First degree in Business Administration from Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria, in 1976.

I began my career in a development finance institution, Kano State Investment and Properties Limited, immediately after graduation from Ahmadu Bello University in 1976. I rose from an investment executive to become the organisation’s finance controller in 1984. In 1991, I joined the biggest public sector pension fund in the country, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, as assistant general manager and became General Manager Investment and Treasury in 1993.

In 2002, I became the Fund’s Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer and retired in 2007. I led the establishment of Trustfund Pensions Plc as a joint venture PFA between NSITF and some private sector organisations and became its pioneer chairman in 2005.
I served as Director of many companies including Afribank Nig. Plc, First Securities Discount House, Nigerian German Chemicals Plc, Standard Trust Bank Ltd and Profund Securities Limited. I currently sit on the Group Board of Royal Exchange Plc and I am the Chairman of Northbridge Microfinance Bank Limited.

Give us the historical background of the IoD?
A full-fledged affiliate of the renowned IoD UK, which was founded in London in 1903 and granted a Royal Charter by King Edward VII in 1906. The institute exists in many countries and offers members a network of over 85,000 members worldwide. IoD Nigeria was founded in 1983 and granted affiliate status of IoD UK in 1997. It is committed to professionalism, directorship competence, integrity and enterprise. We have been around for 34 years. Its major objective is to advocate for corporate governance in the private sector.

The institute has about 4,000 members in Nigeria. We are expecting to be chartered in 2018 hopefully. It is a private enterprise and non-private entity. It is established by people who really desire that to see that governance is done properly in the private sector in the country. We have now moved into the public sector. We have no relationship with government. Our relationship with them is basically, what we do. We help them to build their capacities.

What would you say are the major achievements of the IoD since inception?
Thirty four years down the line, the achievements of the institute have been substantial. Our major objectives are two folds, governance, advocacy and capacity building of directors. We have provided capacity building for directors in the public and private sectors. In the capacity building training, we expose these directors to things that will help them to sustain the growth of their companies and ministries. As a director, you have to properly study to understand the duties of directorship. 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 certain basic things such as ethics, integrity, accountability, transparency, conflict of interest resolution, succession planning and risk evaluation. The institute has been at the forefront of doing all these. We have trained many Permanent Secretaries and Directors from the Lagos State Ministries. Therefore, we have regular engagement with the public sector. We are focusing on other states in order to have engagement with them to train and build their capacity.

One of the major challenges, we have in Nigeria is governance. There is need to understand governance as a concept. Codes of ethics are part of governance. Private sector in any country is responsible for the growth of the economy and that is how it is in Nigeria. In governance, there should be public-private partnership. Governance as an issue is very wide.
We train directors or would be directors to be professionally competent, and imbibe corporate and governance values. It also engages in interfacing of directors and government through some of the programmes such as annual directors’ conference, advocacy programmes, roundtable discussions, and government meets business and the opening of Independent Directors registers.

Who are those eligible for membership and what are the yard sticks for membership?

Directors and Business leaders from the public and private sectors and across diversity of enterprises in commerce, industry, services, professions, and bureaucracy. However, there are three categories of members such as associate, member and fellow. To qualify as an associate, the individual must have been a sole proprietor for a minimum of 1 year. Also, for member must have been a director for a minimum of 2-3 years across all sectors, while to qualify as a fellow, must have been at the directorate cadre for minimum of 10 years.

What are the benefits to members in the private sector and economy as a whole?
As an institute, we focus on creation of unparalleled network among business leaders, life insurance scheme for them, upgrading the conceptual and professional skills of company directors through conferences and workshops, meeting point of both foreign and local investors, and systemic inter-relationship and interface with government. We have continuous engagement with the public and private sector on a regular basis. There is continuous dialogue for government to take itself away from those activities that are not public sector driven. Private sector has been able to prove itself in a lot of ways. The federal government is trying in its drive in developmental projects; the issue here is that governance has been a challenge in many places.

How is the institute administered?
In the administration of the institute, we have a governing council which is supported by the executive and the management. The institute is among many corporate bodies that have the best succession plans in the country. We do this to ensure that there is continuum. We have good places, where we train people and we have the database of people in those regions. Therefore, we create the same programmes we do in Lagos and Abuja in those places. We have breakfast meetings, where we invite top notch executives from the public and private sector, and we discuss with them. We organise members’ evening where we provide members with a lot of seminars and training for members. We organise the same training we are doing here for members in those places. The other regions such as Port-Harcourt and Abuja are growing at the same pace. Overtime, we are hoping that more branches will be opened.

How much of the social and business networking is available at the IoD?
Members benefit from a wide range of services offered by the institute globally, including percentage discount in numerous hotels, attractive insurance packages, and discount in airfare of selected airlines, discount of selected retail outlets, recommendations to companies such as the case of Independent Directors. We need to improve the extend of our networking and training to members.

What is the relationship with the Lagos/federal Governments in terms of advocacy?
The relationship has been cordial. We have engaged them through some of our programmes such as women directors’ conference, government meet business, training of senior directors such as Permanent Secretaries. In the area of advocacy, we organise round table discussion with the government and individuals, we discuss with the private sector. We discuss them on how policies should be driven in order to help the sector grow. We do advocacy through seminars, annual conference, and training programmes. Government is supposed to support the environment and ensure that the right things are done. They provide the rules and regulations on how you run a business.

In what way does IoD specifically promote corporate governance?
Preaching it to all directors and training of members on the norms of corporate governance.

What are the other key services that the IoD provides generally?
We embark on services such as consultancy, executive coaching, capacity development through continuous education, business development.

What are the strategies of the IoD in engaging with the government?
The institute engages with government through various strategies such as dialogue, suggestion of policies to government, engaging them by inviting them to some of our programmes to speak on pertinent issues affecting the economy and steps taken to ameliorate the challenges, and advisory services.

How can the government ensure a private sector led economy in Nigeria?
Government should focus on creation of conducive environment to set up businesses. Also, there is need to focus on formulation of friendly policies to attract better investment economy.

What are the challenges of the IoD?
Everywhere, there are challenges, but we focus on turning those challenging into opportunities. One of our challenges is Chartership. We are already overcoming 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 to be in January. We are also going through House of Representatives. We look forward to overcoming it.

What are the future plans of IoD?
As part of our plans for 2018, we are putting measures in place in order to get chartered, establish the Organisation of Young Directors Forum, establish of International Training centre, make the institute the employment of choice for job seekers, and establish branches across all the geo-political zones of the country. My plan as the president of the institute is to deliberately transform this organisation and work to ensure that the organisation achieves its objectives. We have other president that have come and worked in the institute. They have contributed their quota and we are proud of them. The present governing council draw knowledge and experiences from those who have governed the institute before.

We are building on the foundation they laid for us and my major aim is to build IoD to become an institution not an individual. This is what we need in this country to build institutions, not individuals. I want a situation where people will desire to join the IoD because it’s institutional structure, not because of the individuals.