Dr. Simon Emeje is senior assistant post master general of Nigeria Postal Service (Nipost) and head courier regulatory department (CRD). He is an apostle of professionalism for the postal sector. Emeje has fought illegal operators to a standstill. He spoke to emeka okafor on a wide range of issue.
Experience as Courier Regulatory Boss
Well, the experience has been very challenging. Challenging in the sense that we are coming from the background of an industry that has been battered so much; in the sense of mail pilfering and other vices. We are also coming from the background of quack courier companies in existence. Quack in the sense that they are not licensed and they go ahead to do the business without going through the necessary documentation. We are also coming from a background of an industry that is docile in nature. Docile in the sense that the market is so large and we just have about 20 percent of the market share being tapped by the operators.
We still have a lot to tap. Though it is challenging from this background but it has also been interesting because we have been at the basis of these challenges, to set a standard to an extent despite our limited resources. Standard in the sense of controlling the operators; having it that no operator comes into the industry without a license. Those who come without a license are those who are defaulting and what we do is to go after such people and make sure that they get a license. Those that are so bad, we stop them from being in business. So, on that basis, so far we have been able to set out standards of scrutiny to control those who have no license and are operating. We have also been able to set standards in respect of those operators who applied for license, to ensure that there is high and adequate compliance in terms of our regulations. We have also developed this as a department, to meet the needs of the operators such as training programmes, where we develop a training curriculum, to meet the training needs of the operators. That, we have been doing and all these we have tried to both to scrutinize, promote training and ensure that there is a high level of compliance on the part of those who have been licensed.
Illegal Operators and Renewed Offensive against Them
Illegal courier operators are still there, but they are in hiding. It is not like before where one could raid them in their offices and be rest assured that you will find them there. But now, they have devised other strategies whereby even if we are able to identify their addresses through our surveillance activities, when we raid those offices, they would not be found. We call them faceless operators or portfolio courier operators who carry their bags and move from one office to another without any particular address and even if they give you an address, it is always fake. So, they are still there. When they devised these means, we also went after them using our own means of catching faceless operators-go to the airports and other places. They are very much around except that you cannot just find them; you only see them by operation. When we see them operate, we catch them but it is not like before when you just walk into an office, look at it and no one that does not have a license. But I would like to include that their number has been drastically reduced. It is because of our operations; our clampdown on their activities; our scrutiny programmes, that brought this number down and made them re-strategize into faceless operations. Faceless operation is borne out of the fact that they are aware that we are after them. They exist here and there unknown to us because those that we know of we deal with and the number has declined drastically.
Training and Content Development
Yes. Infact, by of August 6-7, we are going to focus on modern courier trends or how it has been. We want to look at specific set-ups, how you can set up a courier company; how you can set up a mailroom; how you can manage your fleet; how to network; how to organize branches, among others. So we are focusing on a wholeness of an enterprise for people who want to go into courier business and also, for those who are already there who are not doing what they should do because there are so many now whom you go to their offices and you do not see an organized office. So, we want to put them on track so that they will exactly be able to say "these are the things I need, this is the way I should arrange my facilities, this is how I can get my network, this is how I can synergize" So, it is a total package. We have such a rich content of training programmes that will continue even after the oncoming seminar. This is not the last for the year.
There is still hope for the institute. What is holding us is finance and empowerment. We need to be more empowered legally so as to be able to organize so many things we actually want to organize and we know that the cost is enormous for a department of Nipost, a government agency. Whatever we are going to do as a department is to be borne by Nipost and you know very well that that will be with limited resources because Nipost itself is spending on several other things it is expected to do. But I know that as the government goes ahead to review our position, to empower this department and possibly transform it into a commission, these things will become easier for us.
Delay in Postal Commission Legislation
I would say it is more bureaucratic because the ministerial committee was set up in 2005 to produce a draft of the Nigerian Postal Service bill and the National Postal Policy. Unfortunately, because of the death of the then Postmaster General, Argungu, the stakeholders forum did not hold. We eventually held it last year in April and the stakeholders were there and the document was fine tuned with also input from the stakeholders and the document has been with the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) which is supposed to forward the document to John Odey, minister of information and communication, for onward submission to the Federal executive Council and then the National assembly; but the point here is that we are waiting for BPE to submit to the minister and until that is done, even the minister will be handicapped of doing anything at all, the same way the Federal executive Council will be handicapped; the presidency will be handicapped, even the National Assembly too. So, we are waiting and maybe for bureaucratic reasons, BPE is yet to submit to the minister.
24 Hours Clearance at the Airport
Courier operators are ready for it. They want it. We have spoken at various fora on that. We have talked to Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (Faan), Customs, Police and other security agents. The problem they have put forth is the issue of security. We want to clear 24 hours, no problem but assuming the aircraft lands at 12 midnight or 2am and you want to clear at that time knowing that the kind of society we have. We want to clear, move to the expressway at 2am. People are complaining that for security reasons they may not be attuned to clearing at such hours, but the police is ready to cooperate; Faan and other agencies are ready to cooperate and the last time we discussed, we tried to fine tune everything and see how workable it is. It is not just the desire to have 24hours service but they must also appreciate the implication. When we are able to take care of the implication, then it is easier to manage it than to put it in place and now have more problems. 24hours service has been going on perfectly.
ICT and Courier Operations
ICT has improved our operations significantly because we use it to track and trace consignments. With this, they use it to trace a client’s item and know whether it has been delivered or not or whether it is still on transit and at what point it is. So you can monitor the movement of your item through that ICT device. That has come to be as a result of modern technology. The Internet has also impacted positively on courier operations. In terms of sales of items on the Internet, I would say it is helping the business in the sense that it takes a shorter time to place an order, maybe in the US or any part of the world and once you place your order and transfer your money and the next thing is the physical movement of your item; this is where courier companies come in. Without this type of technology, it may well be about two to three weeks or even a month or more to place an order. The development gives courier companies more to do now than when you did not have that quick placement of an order. So, one way or the other, I see ICT helping to create more opportunities for business.
Harassment by Security agencies
We are trying to discuss with various agencies. For instance, we have discussed with the Police. In our last training, we brought the assistant commissioner of Police, Airport Command and we have used our contact with the commissioner of Police to ask for the numbers of DPOs, for our operators and that means that if they have any problem on the road, they can contact these police officers.