Everyone is holding their breath to see what will change in NIPOST with the appointment of a new PMG with private sector DNA. In this report Olubayo Abiodun profiles the dreary past, challenges, hurdles and opportunities that will help the new helmsman push boundaries of prosperity in NIPOST.
BEFORE the advent of the ubiquitous Internet, postal service was a visible asset of most household globally. But the advances of the penetrative influence of Internet sign-post the decent of postal activities down the cliff. In some climes, the re-engineering of the postal architecture is experiencing a rebound. In Nigeria, the story is still enshrined in mystery. However, recent activities may be an indication that the storyline may be a pointer in northward movement.
During one of his familiarisation tour, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu anchored his vision, for the sector of the economy he is superintending over, on reconstruction, rebuilding an revitalization. In Lagos, he pointedly told NIPOST chieftains and operatives that “the era of merely selling stamps and carrying parcels is over. We will re-engineer the agency to run on the fast lane, applying technology to render financial-inclusion services in all corners of our vast country”.
The challenge of NIPOST is not even limited to the controversy rocking its structure as both a service provider and as a regulator in the industry where it is equally competing with brands it is regulating. The postal authority is bedevilled with obsolete operating infrastructure, poorly motivated workforce, heavily challenged service integrity and low level financial strength to up its game. Recent management of NIPOST have tried to build on the efforts of Abubakar Musa Argungun, the former PMG who died in a plane crash in 2005. It was the late Argungun who transformed and resuscitated NIPOST from its comatose state when he held sway from 1999-2005. But it would seem that the momentum of positive change set by Argungun was too high for is successors to maintain.
The dwindling tribes of NIPOST patrons still have huge concerns around the lackadaisical attitude of most staff, delayed deliveries, pilfered items, poor operating environment and obsolete facilities. This is the behemoth that the newly appointed Postmaster General of the federation has come to inherit. But the Minister seems to understand that NIPOST is a ‘special need’ child. And it is no surprise that Shittu disconnected from the traditional chain of succession in the hierarchy of NIPOST management. He ordered a re-engineering of the process with the appointment of Pricewaterhouse Cooper to screen and evaluate applicants for the post of Post-Master General. “We didn’t want the screening to be done by the Ministry alone; so, that was why we decided to include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Department of State Security (DSS), activists, lawyers, and human rights activists to ensure transparency in the appointment,” Adebayo stated.The position was subsequently advertised for interested professionals within and outside NIPOST. One key mandate to Pricewaterhouse for the new PMG was that the candidate must be innovative, smart and technology-savvy. So Asiwaju Bisi Adegbuyi could be safely said to have emerged from the ‘brightest’ of the best in a competitive procedure to get appointed as PMG and with the final seal by President Muhammadu Buhari.
So what will Adegbuyi need to do to inject fresh breath of life into the seemingly moribund NIPOST which had been challenged by the evolution of mobile devices enabled by Internet of Things (IoT)? The Minister has a defined path on this. His thought is that “vehicles used to transport letters and parcels would now be used for haulage, head offices, branches and postal agencies in the remote areas across the country would now be utilised as service points for exam registration processes and banking services, where people in the less cities, who had no banking facilities, could access banking transactions.
Adegbuyi is now in the saddle and would be in the better position to aggregate his focus template for the transformation of NIPOST to a reputable service agency, adorable revenue earner and a place of first choice for professional job seekers. And most importantly, Adegbuyi should aspire to lead a new NIPOST that would ultimately regain the confidence of the public.
The strength of NIPOST is in its deep reach to the nooks and crannies of the country. However, to what extent has NIPOST put such to a competitive advantage? The vast branches that NIPOST has all over the country could be made available to deepen the concept of financial inclusion since most of the Money Deposit Banks have found it extremely expensive to take their brick and mortal services to the hinterlands. If the Post Bank is still yet to see the light of day, collaboration with the Money Deposit Banks would go a long way in ensuring financial inclusion. In addition, the noticeable gaps in the mobile connectivity could be further closed if Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) also perfect collaboration with NIPOST authorities in facility sharing because NIPOST has generous presence in almost all communities in Nigeria. NIPOST offices could be utilized as business centres under a mutual agreement. Apart making airtime sale available via postal office or postal agents, the installation of critical infrastructure, warehouse and customer service centre and call centre operations could be made less burdensome. All these will be additional source of income for NIPOST aside branding opportunities.
DRIVING NIPOST OPERATIONS WITH TECHNOLOGY
Government needs to do more in transforming the operations of NIPOST by integrating technology into the core of its mobility. Among other times, during the first quarter of 2007, the President Umar Musa Yar Adua led government approved the installation of 1,500 VSAT in all major post offices to enhance service deliveries as well as assist bridging the digital divide in the rural areas. Maintenance of such technology is also very vital because one off investment in the initial installation is not the be all and end all of such involvement. There is need for continuous appraisal of the technology being deployed in order to update the systems for optimum service delivery and competitiveness.
Section 89(2) of the Stamp Duty Act says: “Every receipt given by any person in acknowledgement of goods produced or services rendered should be donated by an adhesive postage stamp worth N50 issued by the Nigerian Postal Service.” Section 14(2) of the same Act compels a mandatory receipt to be denoted. However, the lassitude of the previous management in NIPOST, perhaps, robbed it of vital revenues over the years. Stamp Duty Act became law in 2004, yet NIPOST management remained complacent till the President Muhammadu Buhari administration mounted the saddle in 2015. By January 2016, the apex bank issued a circular directing all banks and financial institutions to charge stamp duties on lodgements into current accounts with value of N1,000 and above. The bank said the measure was in compliance with the provisions of the Stamp Duties Act, LFN 2004 as reinforced by a court pronouncement in suit No. FHC/ L /CS / 1710/2013. This law implies that receipts on transaction in Nigeria would not be complete without affixing postage stamps on them. Simply interpreted, the Stamp Duty Act 2004, as amended 2010; says that legal documents such as loan agreements, deposit agreements, staff employment contracts, staff promotion letters, purchase order agreement and any other agreement covered by law, would not be perfect unless the duty stamp was applied.
The CBN has projected that government can make about N3 trillion from stamp duties on financial services industry transactions per annum. Specifically, the apex bank said that government may earn about N2.5 trillion from payment of Stamp Duties from the financial services industry as outlined by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2016 from its fiscal policy instrument. Juxtaposed with the national revenue projected at N3.8 trillion in the 2016 budget, NIPOST has become a cash cow for the federation. NIPOST management must realize that such projection places much expectation on its shoulders for the enforcement and diligent collection of fees on Stamp Duty. This reality has earned NIPOST a refreshing reputation as a revenue-generating agency and with that it got admitted as a key member of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).
The change of story for NIPOST began this January when CBN issued a circular directing all banks and financial institutions to charge stamp duties on lodgements into current accounts with value of N1,000 and above. The bank also reiterated that the measure was in compliance with the provisions of the Stamp Duties Act, LFN 2004 as reinforced by a court pronouncement in suit No. FHC/ L /CS / 1710/2013. “With immediate effect, all Deposit Money Banks and other financial institutions shall commence charging N50 per eligible transaction in accordance with the provisions of the Stamp Duties Act and the Federal Government Financial Regulations 2009; that is, all receipts given by any bank or other financial institution in acknowledgement of services rendered in respect of electronic transfer and other teller deposits from N1,000 and above.”
With its new status as a revenue-generating member of FAAC, NIPOST also earned the privilege of retaining a portion of its revenue, including those accruing from Stamp Duty fees as the cost of collection. A technical committee is presently working out the percentage that NIPOST is eligible to keep. Documents covered under the Stamp Duty Act include bank notes, promissory notes, share certificates, mortgage notes, agreements, conveyance of sale land, powers of attorney, contract notes, valuations, capital or limited liability companies, debentures, share warrants, insurance policy, customs bills of laden, bills of sale and receipts.
While NIPOST will be getting ready to enjoy its new status as a beautiful bride in the nation’s revenue basket, it is important to also make the postal organisation focus on its core value of positioning the customers as king via efficient and effective service delivery. The positive customer experience must hold across all contact points at the Nigerian Postal Services nationwide. Besides, the bountiful harvests from Stamp Duty service, customers must be properly positioned at the heart of NIPOST operations in order to make it relevant. Automation of its operations will also play a critical part in the transformation. And embracing modern technology and deploying highly skilled staff are the essential drivers of the change for greater prosperity in the postal industry.