Chairman of Council, Courier and Logistics Management Institute, Nigeria, Prof. Simon Emeje, in this interview with Emma Okonji speaks on the need for Nigeria to invest more in skills development in courier business to boost economy. Excerpts:
The courier business is lucrative, with lots of prospects, but not many Nigerians have the requisite skills for the business. What can be responsible for this?
One of the major reasons why many Nigerians are not into courier business is lack of adequate skills and awareness. Many people are not aware of the huge potential of the industry, including our various governments. Some people jump into the business because of our personal interest and others for the purpose of doing business, without adequate skills and training and most times they fall by the way side. On the part of government, I can categorically say that our various governments are yet to understand that courier business is lucrative and could add to the growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and that is the reason why Nigeria is among the very few African countries that do not have courier commission that is independent of government, just the way it is with other sectors like the banking and telecommunications sectors. The highest we have had so far is a Courier Regulatory Department (CRD), which is an arm of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST). So CRD regulates courier operators on behalf of NIPOST and the federal government. It is for the reason of inadequate courier skills that the Courier and Logistics Management Institute (CLMI), in collaboration with Swiss School of Management, Rome, Italy, is bringing a full package of courier training programme to Nigeria.
There was a time when the courier operators in Nigeria were demanding for an independent courier regulatory body, which NIPOST supported. To what extent has that been achieved?
You are right. At a point in time, the courier operators felt they needed an independent courier regulatory body since NIPOST operates a courier business called EMS Speed Post. They felt threatened that NIPOST has a courier business, yet regulating the courier industry through the CRD. Their argument was that NIPOST would have double standards in regulating the courier industry, since it operates a courier business. The call for an independent courier regulatory body started since 2005, and I was one of the members of the ministerial committee that was set up by government to look into it in 2005. Then we had a draft bill that was later fine-tuned but unfortunately, the then Postmaster General that pioneered it, Alhaji Abubarka Musa Argungu, died in a plane crash in October 2005. Since his death, it has been a battle to get a courier commission. The subsequent Postmaster Generals that came after Argungu tried to push the draft bill at the National Assembly for passage into law, but the bill kept going forth and back at the National Assembly, among the various committees that handed it. At some points, the bill will get to the stage of public hearing after scaling through the first and second readings on the floor of the National Assembly, but up till now, the bill has not been passed into law. From 2005, the bill had never scaled through to third reading, talk less of getting to the Presidency for the presidential assent. This current National Assembly is winding up and by May, another National Assembly will emerge and they will start all over again from the beginning, should any of them presents it for deliberation. This has been going on as a vicious circle since 2005, and it is not helping the growth of courier industry in Nigeria.
E-Commerce is an emerging business in Nigeria with lots of prospects. What impact will courier business have on e-Commerce in Nigeria?
The e-Commerce is a huge business that also depends on logistics and transportation, which are integral parts of courier business. In Nigeria, the likes of Konga and Jumia are pushing the frontiers of e-Commerce in Nigeria. If courier operators see the huge opportunities in e-Commerce in terms of management, logistics and transportation, they can add value to e-Commerce growth. E-Commerce is about purchase and delivery and courier is about logistics and transportation for the purpose of delivery. So, both can complement each other.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is fast driving e-Commerce and courier business and there is need for both industries to embrace technology to further drive growth.
What is CLMI all about and what does it seeks to address?
CLMI is an institute that was established to address the gap in courier and logistics practices that has existed over the years in Nigeria and globally. That gap is a combination of four professional areas: Courier, Logistics, Transport and Management. There is no institute or university all over the world that is addressing this gap by offering a combination of the four professional areas as a single package in courtier studies. The closest that one can find is in the area of logistics and in some places, transport. So CLMI is the very first institute that is offering the combination of the four core professional areas as a single package and we now have the institute in Nigeria that is in affiliation with some federal universities in the country, and I am the first professor in that speciality globally.
There are lots of quacks in the courier profession and business in Nigeria. How would CLMI address this challenge?
As a pioneer head of Courier Regulatory Department of NIPOST, I started the move to sanitise the courier industry and free it from quacks who pose as professionals. At that time, we discovered that many courier companies that were operating had no operational licences and they were constituting nuisance in the industry through various sharp practices. So we went after such quacks and closed down their offices and business in order to sanitise the courier industry of sharp practices. Although the practice is still ongoing, even after I had left, but we succeeded greatly in reducing quacks from the industry. CLMI is an institute that is interested in raising professionals and if we have several qualified professionals in courier business, I think the issue of quackery will drastically reduce. Again, if we have an independent regulatory body, that is empowered by law, it will further help in sanitising the courier industry.
So what is unique about the entire courier business that CLMI is trying to project, considering the total package of courier, logistics, transport and management?
The uniqueness is clear because courier is far beyond what people think it is. Most people think it is only about movement of parcel from one location to another, but it us far beyond that. There of time element that is also involved in courier, which most people do not know, yet they practice it unconsciously. That time sensitivity is key in all activities of human beings and the four areas of speciality that we are talking about, governs all aspect of human activities globally. What we are doing with CLMI is to create the awareness that will help professionalise the activities we embarked upon on a daily basis, and the essence of professionalism is to help us to it better. In courier, we look at the time element involved in all courier activities. Then in logistics, we also have time management aspect of it because it has a process. Both manufacturers and consumers of goods are involved consciously or unconsciously in time management. The same thing applies to transport because time is also involved. Then to cap it all, management is key in all businesses because management is about decision making and time is also involved in it. So putting the four key areas together as a single package, is a whole lot and a gap that has not been filled for ages, both nationally and internationally.
So looking at the combination of courier, logistics, transport and management as a single package, what will be the impact on the courier industry and the Nigerian economy?
It will bring huge impact on both the courier industry and the economy. The first impact is that it will awaken our consciousness to things we do not pay attention to initially, and create new revenue streams to the Nigerian economy. The time consciousness in these four key areas, will spur productivity in the entire courier industry and at the same time, boost the economy.
CLMI is affiliated with Swiss School of Management, Rome in Italy. What is key about the choice of affiliation and what impact will the affiliation bring to the industry?
In the first instance, there is an existing gap that needed to be filled and there is need to consider professionalism in filling the gap, hence the choice of Swiss School of Management. Again, CLMI is not a university but an institute, hence the need for a credible affiliation. Globally, nobody has a degree in the combined package of courier, logistics, transport and management, and if we are able to put this together, and issue a degree through our affiliation, it will go a long way to present the importance of courier in any given economy. So to achieve this feat, we looked round the world and found it necessary to have affiliation with Swiss School of Management, Rome in Italy, because we saw that they were very open in their approach to the outside world and willing to collaborate. Swiss School of Management do not have the curriculum for the combined four areas in courier studies, but CLMI has it, because we developed it to meet the needs of our country Nigeria and the needs of the entire globe. They were glad to see our curriculum and they were willing to collaborate with us to implement out curriculum that is all embracing. As of today, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between us and the Swiss School of Management in Italy. In the area of creating impact, I see the collaboration as a world-class collaboration that will create huge impact on the Nigerian economy. The truth about our educational system is that we are too theoretical with less emphasis on practical skills, which is a disservice to our nation. But the curriculum we have developed is in the ratio of 50:50 in terms of theory and practical skills, which is upgradable. If there is need to raise the practical skills to between 60 and 70, we will not hesitate to do so. To further make impact, the authority of Swiss School of Management decided to reduce the school fees for Nigerians as a way of encouraging people to take professional courses in courier with CLMI.
Is CLMI likely going to run the programmes as a school with physical structures on ground?
We are working with the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) to successfully implement this, and most of the skills acquisition will be online based. The duration for PhD programme is three years, M.Sc is one year and B.Sc Is four years, which of course could be awarded for three years by compressing some of the courses, depending on the speed of the students for first degree.
As chairman of council of CLMI, how do you intend to create the awareness drive needed to harness the four different areas of courier business that CLMI is presenting as a single package?
We have our strategies at CLMI, and we need collaboration to achieve the strategies, hence the collaboration with Swiss School of Management. We have drawn a practicable curriculum that will help achieve this and we are working with our curriculum. Again, we plan to have one-on-one discussions with various organisations and crate that awareness that will make their staff available for training. They need more knowledge to protect their business and ensure competition and business sustainability and continuity.