President of the Institute of Chattered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), Mr. Samuel Kolawole, believes that good corporate governance will boost the Nigeria’s economy. He speaks with Tobi Soniyi
Recently, the federal government unveiled the Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance. What is your take on this?
Well, corporate governance is necessary for the success of organisations and the society at large. We pride ourselves as being the front runners and the people who are trained and our professionals in this area to support the national code of corporate governance and its application to ensure that organisations are run properly in the interest of all stakeholders because if organisations apply good governance principles, the organisations will thrive, if they don’t, there would be issues and if organisations thrive, the economy will thrive. It is a good thing that has been done, of course there will be controversies as to what the content will be, just like any law or any regulation.
In any country or jurisdiction, people will have their different opinions as to how the law is to be done. A step has been taken and we believe that this will help to improve the corporate governance landscape of Nigeria. In the steering committee that put together this code, we have three of our members who participated in it. So that will tell you who we are, the experiences and the knowledge that our members have to be able to handle something like this, so we are happy that the National Code of Corporate Governance is out. It is a continuous process. All the teething issues will be dealt with as the application of it commences.
What is the institute doing to ensure that more companies embrace the code of corporate governance?
One of the things we are doing is the corporate governance platform through which we are educating people about corporate governance principles, and how this particular national code can be applied. Also, letting people to know that this is not a code that will stifle people’s operations in organisations and letting them understand the values of good corporate governance. In the course of a lot of our activities, we also talk about corporate governance and enlighten people on what it is all about and how it can be handled. For instance, we have the annual round table on corporate governance which is our flagship event organised yearly. Through this medium, we are able to enlighten the society about the good principles of corporate governance and of course, in the training of our members, we also emphasize this. That helps to spread the knowledge and the understanding. It also helps to give people the skills to practice the principles of good corporate governance.
What is your vision for the next 10 to 15 years?
I will not say my vision for the institute because my tenure is expiring this month. I will say my expectation for the institute. I expect the institute to finally claim its place as the front runner in the propagating of the principles of good corporate governance. Not that we are not the front runners, but we need to do a lot to let people know that is who we are. I look to an institute with much bigger membership. Than we have now. I look forward to an institute with a befitting secretariat that people will see and know that this is the value of the institute. I look forward to an institute that will be very relevant in the affairs of this country. I look forward to an institute that will be properly recognised by government and its agencies because the role it is playing in improving corporate governance and also I look forward to an institute that will have influence across Africa and the rest of the world because that is what will make a difference. It is not just about being in Nigeria alone, we can also have influence. Already, we have signed a linkage programme with a university in Republic of Benin. Nothing stops us from signing other linkage programmes with other universities across the world. I look forward to an institute that will be conducting examination in other jurisdictions for those interested in taking our examinations outside Nigeria. I look forward to an institute that will be properly structured to enable it contribute its quota to the development of Nigeria.
Over the last two years what were the challenges you met on the ground upon assumption?
When I came in what I believed were my challenges, were things that I have set out for myself to achieve within the period I would be president of the institute. Over the years, the presidents who piloted the affairs and the councils that worked with them had done their own bits. We had some issues, but they were not really challenges as such. The challenges I had were those things that I had set out to achieve for myself as the president of the institute.
What were the issues?
When I came in as president, there were a number of things we set out to achieve. For instance working with the council that I will be privileged to chair. One of them was the feasibility of the institute, letting people know what the institute is all about and improving the awareness among Nigerians about what the institute does and is all about. We also had the issue of the secretariat which was not physically comfortable for those working there and it was not befitting for our members. Of course at that time we were looking at the possibility of rebuilding the secretariat. I also had the idea that since this institute was a knowledge based institute, we should disseminate knowledge not just by qualifying examinations, but we should enrich the body of knowledge in the society. Based on my background, having come from a publishing background, we wanted to leave a legacy of publishing for the institute. At least, our ideas and knowledge- we should be able to put out there in a form that people can have access to them. So being able to publish books and journals was one of the things we set out to do. We also had issue of our linkage programme which universities. I thought we will take further and faster than we have been doing. That was also a challenge for us.
Can you appraise your administration in the last two years?
Well, I will say that the administration I have been privileged to lead in the last two years because the administration is not for the president alone, it consists of members of the council that the president is privileged to work with. I think that we have tried to take the institute from the level that we met it to a higher level in the area of publication and dissemination of knowledge. For the first time we started the institute journal, we have had an edition out and we believe that it is something that will be professional in nature. Also, the institute magazine has been improved upon to make it more professional.
In terms of creating awareness, we have started the corporate governance platform which is a radio programme and that continued over time which also helps to disseminate information about corporate governance to the public and also to members. Working together with the council, we have been able to achieve this. Before the administration took off, the institute had signed two linkage programme with two universities- Babcock and Leadcity Universities.
Within the last two years, we have been able to sign three and there are still one or two in the offing.
We have been able to sign with a university in the Republic of Benin, Caleb University and Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti. Since the beginning of the linkage programme, only two were signed and within two years, three have been signed now and I think that the council I was privileged to lead has also moved it forward and believe that those who will be in charge of the institute after my tenure will also do much better than we have done.
We have not been able to commence the building of a new secretariat, but we have gone ahead to improve the aesthetics and the functionality of the current institute and a lot of changes have taken place within the premises and that is the idea because I said at my investiture that we should be able to work together to ensure that the staff are comfortable where they work and we have been working on that.
In terms of publication, the journal is out and we have changed the nature of our magazines, and the company secretary handbook will soon be out. We are hopeful it should be out before the end of the tenure of the present administration. We were also able to introduce the insurance schemes for members and for the first time, we were able to introduce issuance of identity cards for members.
How digitalised are your activities considering the fact that no corporate body can do without technology?
We have improved on that, but there is still room for further improvement to properly digitalise the activities of the institute. Now we do registration for examination online, we still have some who are not able to do that, we also find a way to ensure that they are not left out. Even before this present administration took over, the institute has started online voting exercises for our elections. Our website is being improved from time to time to ensure that we are able to leverage on technology so that we can function properly in the institute. But there are still quite a lot to do in that area.