One of the players in the courier delivery services industry in Nigeria, Peter Osamgbi, in this interview with Nosa Alekhuogie argues that with the professionalism established by the Courier Regulatory Department of NIPOST, the industry can be a huge revenue earner both for the investor and government. Excerpts:
What attracted you to the courier business, judging from your background as a PR professional who runs a PR firm?
I am a businessman, but I also have the training and expertise to run a courier firm, having worked for two top courier firms in the world. When I was in the United Kingdom studying a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in the University of East London, I worked part time with Parcel Force, a courier arm of Royal Mail. I also, worked with United Parcel Service (UPS) for one year before relocating to Nigeria. Within this period, I had excellent and incisive working experience of how a courier company functions and effectively at that. For instance, when I was in UPS, I worked in various departments; Customer Service, Mail Room, Dispatch, Loader, Sorting and Monitoring. Mind you, extensive training was given at both UPS and Parcel Force. Having experienced courier services with top courier firms in the world and particularly with UPS, the number one courier service in the world and Parcel Force, owned by one of the oldest Post Office agency in the world, I thought I should bring that experience to bear by establishing One-On-One Parcel Service in Nigeria.
What was your experience like, when setting up the business?
I had a very funny, eye opening, tasking but impressive experience during the process of setting up the business. This has to a very large extent, positively changed my perception of a government agency and in particular, NIPOST. To operate a courier company in Nigeria now, you are required by law to register with the Courier Regulatory Department (CRD) of NIPOST. For a national courier, you pay N2,000,000 vide a bank draft to NIPOST. You must have a N500,000, insurance bond, as well as have offices in the six geo-political zones of the country amongst other requirements. So, I had gone there, bearing in mind what I had been told, which is to set aside some funds for PR, mainly to facilitate the registration process. I met one Mr. Gideon Shonde at the CRD at Obalende, Lagos, who gave me the information for requirements and went ahead to guide me. He was very professional and did his job at his pace. Five months after they had done their investigations and visitations regarding my claims to offices across the six geo-political zones, I received a call from their office for me to come over for presentation of the licence. And much to my surprise, we were presented the licence after a three hours orientation at their office. Put simply, we got the courier licence to operate as a courier company without paying any gratification to anybody. Many thanks to the wonderful team at the Courier Regulatory Department of NIPOST, Lagos, led by Mr. Gideon Shonde.
What are the possible challenges of the sector given multiplicity of courier services?
Well, there is no business without its own challenges; but I tell you, despite its numerous challenges, the courier services have great potential for huge revenue earnings both for the investors and the government. Nonetheless, there are myriad challenges in the industry. First, the problem of quacks who are not registered with the CRD, but are daily operating illegally without any checks thereby denying the registered courier companies the much-needed revenue. Secondly, the multiple taxation and tariffs charged by both state and Local government is adversely affecting the business. Thirdly, the very violent attitude of Local Government staff and personnel towards our dispatch riders tend to affect our operations. Some of these Local government staff can just impound your motorcycle for one flimsy excuse or the other, and particularly for failure to pay a tariff to them, even when in actual fact you had paid the same tariff to the state government. Also, there is a major problem with the terrain; most Lagos roads are horrible and damages the motorcycles very quickly. Then lack of specific lanes for motorcycles and poor driving culture by motorists and cyclists, which leads to frequent accidents and damages that has come to affect the insurance policy for courier business. Lastly and fundamentally, is the problem of staffing particularly the dispatch riders. The industry appears to be so loose that anyone who can ride a motorcycle just gets employed without adequate knowledge of the industry, safety on the wheels, and proper identity. All these made my company suffer numerous loss in our first year of operation, leading to our shutting down temporarily.
What then do think is the way forward
The way forward is very clear and would require the political will to implement. The Courier Regulatory Department and indeed NIPOST must develop the will power to strengthen the industry and grow it, beyond just issuing licence to operate. In my view, government should develop a strategy of going after those operating without a licence so as to give some sense of responsibility to operators who are law abiding by paying for the license and intending operators at large. It is critically essential for them to partner with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and create a Task Force to go after those operating illegally not with the intention of extortion but that of the good intent of regulating the industry. Though the CRD are doing well by periodically organising trainings for operators, however, there is also the need to look at a critical aspect of the operations which is the dispatch riders. We all know that anyone can actually go to the Local Government to get a rider’s card. But I will like a situation where a dispatch rider’s card is different from the normal biker’s licence. That is to say, before you get the dispatch rider’s card, you would have gone for proper orientation, including traffic rules, safety, and then undergo some tests, and if you pass, you are therefore issued with a dispatch riders’ card. Whereas, what we have today is for anyone to just walk into a Local Government council, pay four thousand (N4,000) naira which is receipted and you are given a rider’s card. Put simply, you may be giving a rider’s card to somebody who hadn’t even the slightest knowledge of riding a bike and addresses are not verifiable.
What further role can government play?
Government always has a major role to play in every business and they must begin to see themselves as not just a revenue collecting body, but also a responsible institution, capable of providing a veritable platform for businesses to thrive. In truth, the courier industry in Nigeria can contribute greatly to our economic growth, particularly in the arear of job creation. It also has become a business enabler for small business owners who are very much active in the e-commerce or digital trade space, the courier industry becomes the backbone for this sector to reach their customer base spread over the country.