‘Government should provide intervention fund for third sector operators’
MRS. EREFA FYNECONTRY-COKER is a human resource expert and convener of the third sector conference. She spoke with VICTOR GBONEGUN on the need for government to build capacity of voluntary organisations, to help them achieve social, environmental and cultural milestone, among other issues.
The third sector is a vital component of any legitimate society where individuals and communities feel empowered and enabled to achieve solution to problems. What is your assessment of the industry?
I would say that since I started research into the sector, I don’t think government has done enough to encourage operators. For example, in the United Kingdom the government supported the sector with about £430million initiative for capacity building. But, in Nigeria, operators have to go about looking for money, financial support from international donor agencies as opposed to the Nigerian government providing financial support for the sector. Third sector operators lack funding for their operations. Government should provide intervention fund for the operators. The loophole caused by the scarcity of fund, is really affecting their impacts especially in communities/ grassroots, which are the recipients of various supports. Funding the sector will enable players to thrive and improve their impact through skill acquisition programmes for the people.
Overtime, the sector in Nigeria thrive on foreign aids for its operations and currently, there are issues of global donor fatigue. How do you think the sector could function effectively amid this challenge?
Amid the experience, I think operators must be able to think creatively on how to source for funds. This will form parts of our discussion in one of the sessions at the conference holding today; we are going to deal with the issue of sustainable funding. Speakers have been invited to enlighten participants on ways to effectively harness fund for smooth operation.
There are concerns on the country’s poverty level, low capacity in human and material development despite abundant diverse resources? How do we move forward?
Authorities at all levels must support private sector led initiatives for capacity development of the people. Look at India for example, they have the second largest population in the world but look at what the country is doing, developing the capacity of the people in every area and providing infrastructure to support the people. Look at Ilupeju, an industrial hub located in Lagos for example, we have more Indians working there, earning naira and sending money through foreign exchange to their economy. The Indian government builds the capacity of its people. Nigeria needs to build the skills of the people through our educational system.
How do you plan to achieve your objectives and how would you measure the success of the programme?
We plan to achieve our objectives through the speakers that we have invited for the conference. They are people who have worked for big international NGOs like Islamic Relief for over twenty years and they know how to source for funds. The speakers would bring innovations to the forum as well as to Nigeria during the gathering. We are going to measure the success of the conference through the feedbacks from our participants. We plan to follow up with the participants to ensure that they implement what they have learnt and in the upcoming conference, they could be able to testify on its impact on their mode of operations.
Recently the federal government raised concerns on the activities of Non-Governmental Organisations, noting that they are more of adversary than a friend, what should be the relationship between government and non-governmental organizations?
Government and the third sector should work hand-in-hand. The third sector impacts communities the most and government supposed to formulate policies that should aid their services. Because Nigeria is in a third world country, government always interfere in everything that happens in the economy. The sector often source for finance independent of government, operators are self-financed and I don’t see the need for government to make attempt at regulating them. It takes a lot of passion and commitment to sustain in the sector. People leave their jobs just to set up voluntary organizations that help to reduce poverty in the society.
What role should the third sector play in mitigating challenges of unemployment?
The industry is playing huge role in terms of giving skills to people, to help themselves. Above all, everything depends on the support of the government. Government alone can’t employ everybody but by funding small businesses, people would be able to thrive and cater for their family. Operators have played significant role by empowering the people in their respective communities to create opportunities for themselves and also cater for their families. We need policies that support entrepreneurs, improve security, power and finance and other basic infrastructure for businesses to thrive.
As the country heads to 2019 polls, what are your expectations from stakeholders in the industry?
They should function as the drivers of civil renewal and catalysts for positive change, encourage people to collect their voters’ card and vote for credible candidates. People must consciously weigh manifestoes of political parties before giving out their votes.
Operators shouldn’t discourage people from participating in the nations’ electoral process. In the next two or three years, I expects that the third sector would be well endowed with the capacity/infrastructure to deliver their goals and objectives to the society.
This is the inaugural of the third sector conference, what do you plan to achieve through the forum?
The conference is set to mark a shift in the third sector landscape by fulfilling the pressing need to use volunteering as a development modality for the nation. We want to bridge knowledge gap and inspire innovative solutions for operators and stakeholders of voluntary sector in Nigeria.
The event will feature master-classes, breakout sessions and over five-hundred industry delegates covering, not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises, think-thanks, start-ups, department of social work in higher institutions, corporate social responsibility initiatives and other social-impact platforms across the country.
In the societal hierarchy, we have the first sector, which is the government, the second, which is the private sector that basically exists for profit and the third sector, which include; Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), charity organisations and foundations that are often overlooked in Nigeria.
The basic needs we are providing are the capacities and procedures, which seem to be lacking in the country, thus, making it difficult for operators to achieve set out goals and objectives. At the conference, we are going to offer support services to participants, which is in the form of providing them with needed skills to improve their processes.
Human Resource management in Nigeria is growing and improving compared to the situation about 20 years ago. Organisations have started to understand that it’s important that they develop and respect their staffs unlike before where management of some organizations often threaten staff with sack letter at every point possible. They are beginning to understand that people who work for them are not just important asset but the most important asset in the organisation. More efforts and resources must therefore, be committed to developing human capacity.
HR is becoming more technologically advanced and Nigeria must not be left behind, especially in the era of artificial intelligence. We need to catch up with the rest of the world. The future of work is that technology would make it easier to perform daily tasks. Artificial intelligence will help in processing 10,000 applications, interview applicants and appropriately sort them out according to their performances. Through that, you don’t need to start sorting curriculum vitae one after another.
Flexibility in work place is also the future of work. This implies that people could work from home without necessarily making visible appearance at the office. They could work for two hours per day, log into a central system that is situated in the office and carry out daily routines. The nation therefore, must be prepared by putting in place the necessary technology infrastructure for work places.