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We’re for good governance in 2019 elections, says IoD chief


Dele Alimi

Dele Alimi is the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Directors (IoD) Nigeria. In this interview with GLORIA EHIAGHE, he speaks about emergence of quality leadership in the 2019 general elections and the forthcoming institute’s annual directors’ conference among other issues of national importance. Excerpts:

The Annual Directors’ Conference, which is the Institute’s flagship event, is around the corner. What are you doing differently this year and how are the corporate directors responding to it?
The conference is holding on the November 8, 2018 at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, with the theme: ‘Global Best Practice in Corporate Governance: Way Forward for Nigeria’. From the theme, you will realise that we are still demanding more in terms of the need for Nigeria to embrace the spirit of good corporate governance. What we are doing this year is that we are looking at the global best practices, where it has been done and how it has been done right and bringing people to come and discuss that.

We are going to have foreign speakers and discussants from climes where internationally, they have been acclaimed to have very good corporate governance codes that are working and working very well for them. We are bringing them here to listen to their experiences.

We are also going to have Nigerians who are also in charge of implementing our codes, or contributed to our own governance code.  Not only are we examining the issue ourselves, we will be looking at other places where they seem to be doing it better than we are. The special guest of honour is the Vice President and the keynote address speaker is Prof. Bola Akinteriwa. He has written so much on leadership especially as it affects Nigeria and you have the Chief Executive Officer, IoD Mauritius. Mauritius is regarded as one of the countries in Africa with the best corporate governance codes. It is working very well for them, if you look at the ease of doing business; they are even ahead of us. We are bringing the CEO of Mauritius IoD to talk about their own experience, about how they were able to entrench corporate governance code and how they were able to work in their country. Part of our speakers is the President, Nigeria Stock Exchange, Bimbo Banjo; Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Eyo-Ita; and Chairman Financial Reporting Council among others.

2019 is an election year. What are the institute’s expectations, how prepared and what role will the institute be playing?
In terms of the institute’s expectation, our expectation is the same with every other Nigerian. Our expectation is that we have a free and fair election that will bring out the best Nigerians to lead the country.Going forward, IoD will participate in the discourse that will lead to the emergency of good governance. As I speak with you, we are planning on holding a pre-election discourse with some major contenders for positions in this country, such as the presidency and governorship candidates of States where we have branches. We want to engage them and allow people to hear from them and see what they have in stock for corporate Nigeria and the country in general.

So as a body that is apolitical, these are the things we can do. We are hopeful that as the country is becoming older, we will continue to entrench the values and the right kind of leadership with other BMOs in the country for the development of the country.

Recently, you launched the Code of Ethics Committee. What informed it and how is the committee going to regulate the activities of directors in their various organisations?
The idea of setting up an ethics committee is to ensure that all our members at all-time are above board in their dealings and activities. Also, to play the roles they have been given as directors.

We believe that when put in place, the c ode will guide directors. Our aim is not to be punitive. We will give our members a code that will spell out their responsibilities. We believe that any point in time anyone has an issue, they will be guided on what to do in terms of blowing the whistle.The whole idea is that as a member of IoD, there is a particular level of standard that is expected of our members and if anyone falls below it, there will be sanctions. Also, the reason why I said it is not going to be completely punitive in nature is that when we notice that a member errs, standing on the existing ethics code that we have, we can write the member. So it is also going to be advisory in nature and that will not be within our control. Our code of ethics is within our control. 

We are not going to be waiting on government and regulatory authorities. We will have our own committee. This ethic conduct will ensure that members are able to live above board as the conducts are concerned.

What is the relationship between the public and private sectors in Nigeria? Would you say it is collaborative or conflicting and what is IoD doing to connect the two sectors for the benefit of the economy?
The truth of the matter is that we are all – private and public sectors – working towards the same goal. There would be some noticeable difference in the aims, objectives and the target of each sector, but in the end it is like there is an entity called Nigeria that continues to host everybody. What is important for us is that once that entity continues to exist and there is peace and stability for those in the public and private sector, everyone will enjoy. So at the end of the day, for me, it is a collaborative effort. We are expanding our focus and capacity development programme into the public sector. We have trained federal and state government directors and permanent secretaries in the area of governance.

Chartered Directors is something that is present in other parts of the world where there is IoD. How far has IoD Nigeria gone in establishing Chartered Directors?
To have chartered director, the first thing you must do is that the institute itself must be chartered. As I speak with you, IoD Nigeria has gone very far. This is a race that started about three to four years ago. By the grace of God, we are at the last leap of getting a chartered status for IoD Nigeria. Once we have a chartered status, in the house, we will roll out our plans to ensure that we have chartered directors in Nigeria. We are hoping that will happen before the end of the year.

What are you doing to speed up the charter process of the institute? 
The issue goes beyond speeding up, because you have to make sure that all that needed to be done are done. Don’t forget that it is a legislative thing. It has gone to the National Assembly, and as I speak, it has passed through the Senate processes and they have passed it already. We are expecting that the House of Representative will pass it any moment from now. This is why I stated that within the year, it is possible. If it is passed any moment from now, then we will wait for Mr. President to sign it into law. I think we have waited long enough. We are hoping in the next few months we will be granted a charted status. 

What is the institute’s role in corporate governance and how does it differ from management’s role?
The roles are quite different. You have different categories of staff and workers. In many organisations, you have what is called junior and senior staff. There are also management staff and directors. At each level, there are expectations.

There are job descriptions, there is Key Performance Index (KPIs) and everyone has a role to play. But then, people look more to the top, where strategy resides, and directions are given, this is where the difference between the director and the manager comes in.

It is believed that at the director level things are going well, it is most likely that they will hire the right set of mangers that will be the vision drivers. So the directors are the vision drivers. They set the standard and the strategy. Then they bring it down to the management level and implement. They continue to evaluate and review what management is doing. So if you have at that level people who are well trained, with the capacity and experience to deliver, there is likelihood that management will be well guided. So the directors guide the mangers to deliver on the set strategies put together by the directors.

The directors can be divided into executive directors, which include the managing director and other executives who are part of the daily running of the organisation. Then, the board that has non-executive directors, the board comes there daily but their liabilities are now so large you cannot be an executive director and say I don’t know when they were doing this.

The rule now takes everyone into consideration. So, as a non-executive director, it is important you know what is going on. You must get the fact behind the figures. Directors can now go to jail when companies are not well managed. This is how the practice has gotten to now. Non-executive directors can now go to jail.

Various sectors have their regulatory bodies. Even quoted companies, there are new sets of guidelines from the Stock Exchange Commission (SEC), people are now expected to do due diligence on their companies.

So they are representing everybody including the staff because when the company goes down. The shareholder loses his investment and the employers lose their job. So the board is carrying heavy load. So much is expected of them and that is why an institute like IoD wants to continue impact positively on people who are boards and ensure they have enough knowledge to play that honourable task. There are big implications for not doing your job as a body.

What are the major contributions of the Institute to the economy?
The institute of directors is a prime membership organisation in Nigeria and it basically focuses on capacity development for directors, improving their abilities to deliver on the various mandates they have been given in the various boards, ministries, departments, and companies they are directing. The role of a director is different from that of a manager.

The institute is striving in all areas to make the Nigeria economy viable and useful to everybody. So, I believe that when directors direct well, organisations will be sustainable. When organisations are sustainable employments will always be retained and new employment will be created.

Organisations, especially those in the private sector if they are performing well will contribute meaningfully to the coffers of the government. They will pay tax as at when due if they are doing their job well, following due process and good corporate governance.

Then government will spend less on getting tax and get more from these organisations, who are doing well. So when you consider it from both sides, our organisation is in a position to help both the public and private sectors to ensure that members through their various capacities and interventions in their organisations move the country forward.

What are you doing differently from the past CEOs?
The institute has been here for 35 years before I came. Definitely, if you have an institute that has spent that long, there are things they are doing right and with the membership of over 4,000 career directors in this country, it is a very relevant organisation.

The first thing is consolidate on the things that have been done right which is basically in the area of director development, and look at new areas that are evolving in directing companies. Even those who are not members of the institute continue to be kept abreast of new development and ways to run their organisation well. The issue of governance is one major challenge we have in Nigeria. People have complained seriously.

We have had issues of improper governance. People ask questions what is an organisation such as ours doing in that regard and I tell them that we are not a regulatory, but an establishment authority. What that implies is that our role is to make a difference with our members and make a difference in the society. This is what we are doing and as the DG, what I want to do is to make sure that the strategic focus of the institute in terms of ensuring the integrity of directors, and the development of capacity of directors are achieved.

We want to make sure that we improve on the visibility of the institute. Visibility in the sense that people must know what we stand for. We must also intervene and influence government policies for the benefit of all.

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Dele AlimiIoD
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