The Technical Director of Safety Consultant and Solutions Provider ( SCSP), Antonia Beri,in this interview speaks on why Nigerian economy would continue to suffer loss. theparrot.ng brings the excerpts:
By 2023,Nigeria aimed to to be among the top 70 on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking. How realistic is this?
The latest report shows that Nigeria moved up 15 places from its 2019 spot to rank 131 on the World Bank ease of doing business index.
It is a good thing that Nigeria is now tagged one of the most improved economies for running business in the world. But within, you and I know that Nigeria still have a lot of anti business policies and activities that it is contending with.
Now let's examine some of the indicators: registration, access to credit, tax payment mechanism, infrastructure, electricity, trading across borders, construction permits, starting a business and protecting minority investors, etc. I ask that which of these areas have we really got it right ? Every now and then, government comes up with promises they never get to fulfil and those ones that give investors sleepness nights. You might have forgotten that a lot of investors were forced to relocate or shut down their businesses because they can no longer bear the heat in the environment. I'm sure many more are still considering this option. So to me,saying Nigeria will be among the top 70 on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index by 2023 is more of a hoax. We can all bear witness to what happened to vision 2020. Despite the Nigeria's campaign be among the world’s top 20 economies, the present situation is worse than ever. According to report, Nigeria now has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty across the world, with an estimated 86.9 million people said to be living on less than N381 a day.
You talked about anti business policies and factors threatening business environment. Can you mention some of them?
These are some of the things I have highlighted in the indicators such as tax mechanisms, infrastructure deficit, high interest rate and corruption amongst others. More importantly, there are key factors that threaten the business environment and economy growth that we often overlook in this clime. They are : poor attitude to safety, weak operational risk management practice and ineffective risk management structures.The incessant occurrences of natural and human induced disasters have become a serious menace to the Nigerian society. Yet, our level of proactiveness to these occurrences is pitiably low despite that the country is very poor in managing crisis. A 2012 report by the United Nations relief agency that says Nigeria has one of the worst records of disaster management in sub-Saharan Africa. In the wake of activities this year, Nigeria recorded a lot if fire outbreaks that could have been averted or at least mitigate the effects if we were proactive enough. This sudden occurrences add up to the cost of governance as governments take responsibility of reinstating victims and providing palliatives in cases. How do you expect growth and development when we keep reinvesting in disaster and divert resources that should have been deployed to other developmental projects? Again, there are strong indications that the country may slide into another recession very soon. Just recently,the International Monetary Fund (IMF), revised down wards the country's 2020 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecast to 2.0 percent and downgraded its growth projection from 2.5 percent to 2 percent. This is a red flag that must not be ignored,we need to block all loopholes including strengthening efforts to averte risks or mitigate accompanying effects. The Nigerian public sector in particular need to retrace their steps as regards to managing risk proactively.
What about the private sector?
Both the public and private sectors are guilty here ,but there is a higher compliance to safety and risk indicators by operators in the private sector than it is in the public sector. Private sector operators are guided by a parent association with regular monitoring that ensures strict adherence to rules and guidelines. Being profit driven, its emphasises on delivering quality jobs. However in the public sector, corruption has eaten so deep in the system that operators see and overlook the right thing while government interference has not berthed the much needed operational standards in risk management practice.
What do you think account for Nigeria's poor attitude to managing risk?
Gone are those days when awareness used to be a major challenge.The awareness in occupational risk is gradually gaining ground in the various health, safety and environment management, HSE, activities. However a complete adherence to this is expensive and there is tendency for companies to want to cut corners in carrying out safety & risk management activities that are up to par with standards.Some people also attribute Nigeria's failure to lack of adequate knowledge in the field but I say adequate knowledge of risk management and safety practice is available in the industry. What is however required is a 100% application and enforcement by everyone and every organisation concerned. More so, there is the sharp practices by some industry operators as well as seeming lack of government interest in championing operational risk management. Policy lacuna is also a major challenge worthy of note.
How has the present status of risk management in Nigeria affected the economy?
The weakness of the Nigerian safety industry has promoted incidences of corruption as officials meant to follow through on safety practices are in most cases compromised, thus leading to weak institutions. Weak institutions in turn erodes investor confidence that eventually affect the strength of foreign direct investment that come into the country.
How do you think Nigeria can measure up in terms of compliance and best practices with regards to operational safety and risk management?
While we have improved in the area of awareness, we still need to do more in building and advancing awareness on the subject matter.There is also need for best practice sharing by industry leaders at the national and global levels.Beyond this, strict application of policy guidelines governing the safety & risk management industry should not be compromised. The federal government needs to take the lead and champion the application and enforcement of stipulated risk and safety management policies. This would further encourage public and private operators to improve on awareness and knowledge transfer, thus, create lasting and strong institutions. Government should also provide required backing to regulatory agencies and carry out public visibility of companies found to have under performed in safety/risk management practices.
How is SCSP helping to raise the bar of professionalism in safety and risk management practices in the country?
We have invested heavily in capacity building and education. We make sure we absorb t the best hands to attain excellence in our service to our clients and the nation at large. SCSP offers HSE trainings to local, international & multi-national organizations and building capacity in these companies. The organisation has attained some of the highest level of corporate membership and certification, hence enabling it to play an important role as a market leader in safety and risk management service provider. Despite confronted with a very tough operating environment in 2019, the firm was able to come out stronger and better positioned in the areas of risk management with a greater team. Our strength lies in our staff who are sourced locally and internationally as well our expertise in providing risk consulting, engineering solutions and project management, amongst others. This has been enhanced through extensive niche training and profiling of our people. SCSP boasts technocrats and executives with high business development acumen, whose consciousness revolves round the need of operational risk management and profering risk mitigation solutions .These group of professionals think widely of the cutting edge especially in the new fifth industrial revolution dimension where work ethics is driven by technology and they understand the risk in this new world.