Ralph Chikezie, a renowned business administrator and logistician, is the managing director and chief executive officer of Union Express Limited, a Subsidiary of Union Registrars Limited, and a member of Union Bank Group Plc, one of the biggest financial organizations in Africa. He was the former vice president and chief executive officer of Central Logistics and Support Services Limited, with about 16 years experience in the courier industry. Chikezie, a member of Institute of Directors of Nigeria and an alumnus of Philips Business School, Stellamboch University, South Africa, has attended several training in logistics and supply chain management both in the United Kingdom and in Nigeria. In this interview with nkechi david-iwuchukwu, he talked about new innovations in Union Express and other industry issues.
Union Express and other players in the industry
Union Express is a unique player in the industry, based on the fact that we are Union Bank Group and we have a unique product to sell. The courier company is an assembly of professionals from different courier companies. It commenced operations on October 29, 2007, and is duly licensed by the Nigerian Postal Service to operate Courier Services locally and internationally. It is now that Union Express started because we have done several research and discovered what consumers want. We have introduced tracking system, and other special products like; industrial purchase services and bike hire services. In fact what we are planning to leverage on is Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to ensure we better our environment, that is why I said we have a unique product to sell.
Banks Interest in Courier
Banks interest in courier is a venture, it is like the banks interest in every other business. Courier operators in Nigeria are now striving to meet the standard of global courier operators. It is like every other business the banks feel they can venture into. It is a welcome development, about two or three have entered and I hope others will follow suit. We the old players appreciate the interest which the banks are showing because it will make the business lucrative, responsible and more corporate.
Unique Selling Point
Our unique selling point is the ICT we have embarked on. For example, right now mails are delivered on time and Proof of Delivery (POD) is issued immediately to the customer. In industrial support services, we help industries to move their raw materials. Also we leverage on the 386 branches of Union Bank to provide services to remote places. Presently, we are making arrangements with the embassies to assist them to issue visa to Nigerians in remote places. We are still researching and we believe that more innovations will be brought into the courier industry through Union Express. Also the courier company is well represented in over 13 state capitals of the federation from where we deliver to over 1,000 cities and towns in the country.
We ensure that shipments are handled with operational excellence from the point of pick-up to the point of delivery. We also provide customers with tracking facilities to enable customers ascertain the position of their shipment at all times. However, the courier company specializes in the delivery of Capital Market Documents and General Courier Services, for example; Annual General Meeting Reports, Extra-Ordinary General Meeting Notices, Public Offer Parcels, Share Certificates, Dividend Warrants and Rights Circulars. We also offer special benefits to customers like; Free Pick-ups Service, Monthly Credit, Special Discount on Volume, Proof of Delivery, Insurance of shipment in transit, and Speedy Customs Clearance.
Professionalism in the Industry
Professionalism is the key in any industry and we believe it will be a very good tool to give the industry a corporate look. We are pleading with the government to bring the courier reform plan agenda on board. Right now there is no training school on logistics for operators in the courier industry but we have NCC organizing for operators in the ICT industry and Institute of Transport in Zaria, organizing for operators in the transport industry. Association of Nigeria Courier Operators( Anco) is planning to set up a training school, to train and also have a recruitment centre for various departments, from courier to clericals, customer service, marketers, and things like that. As a member of the association, I am hopeful that in the next one year, things will materialize and in our movement with government, the ministry of education and others, we will be able to become certified as soon as possible. Presently individually we are trying to train and re-train our staff in new developments in the courier industry. Also the Courier Regulatory Department (CRD) has a quarterly compulsory training for operators in the industry and it is a pre-requisite for renewing our license. However, some of us that can afford it travel abroad for advance training like that of last year was held in Germany and the one for this year will be held in Denmark. Very soon it will come to play once we have the Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) offering training in logistics for operators in the courier industry.
Financing the Industry
In Nigeria to finance any industry is difficult because of the credit position of banks. One of the challenges is finance because courier is capital intensive, however once an industry gets a corporate look finance will be easy. For now finance is a big challenge because of the cost of buying trucks, bikes and human capital. We have to keep to a standard by delivering mails on time and this involves a lot of money but we will soon overcome it once a corporate outlook is given to the industry.
Postal Service Commission
The postal service commission is a welcome development. We have gotten the first reading and the first public hearing, for everybody in the industry including Nipost, they say it is a welcome development. We are pleading with the government to fast track their effort to bring the commission in place. To me courier and postal is everybody’s business, so we are all stakeholders. But for players, those who have taken it as their work should be considered to be among board members in the commission. The problem we have in delivering mails is the problem of numbering in some streets but when we have a commission there will be a department where complaints will be lodged. The Commission should look at having a data bank where information can be provided, so that whoever is delivering a letter can do it with ease.
The major challenge is finance, another is postal code and street addresses and training. Also a regulatory body that is independent is very important, all these are key factors that will make the courier industry a developed environment. Another challenge is that software developers are not looking into the industry but I believe that when the market is open, a lot of them will be interested in the industry because it is a big market. At a time we were looking at purchasing a software from Athens in Greece but thank God we found one in Nigeria. If all these things are in place, the environment will become a better playing field for players in the industry.
CBN Pulls Rate Cut Trigger, King Dollar Returns
By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM,
In a move that caught investors off-guard this week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slashed interest rates by 100 basis points bringing the MPR to 11.5%. Given how inflation has been above target since 2015, rates were expected to remain unchanged for the rest of 2020 and possibly early 2021.
The question on the mind of many is whether the rate cut will achieve the desired effect by stimulating consumption and economic growth? Ongoing border closures and disruptions created by COVID-19 have pushed inflation to levels not seen since March 2018 above 13.20% while a drop in the production and price of Oil continues to rub salt into the wound. While looser monetary policy could support growth, it may come at the cost of rising inflation and weaker Naira.
Over the past few months, central banks across the globe have deployed unprecedented measures to defend their respective economies against the coronavirus menace. However, fiscal policy has been identified as the sharper tool with governments across the world providing a critical lifeline to keep the wheels of their respective economies rolling.
Outside of Nigeria, King Dollar made a return by appreciating against every single G10 currency. In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a juicy piece of the world’s most liquid currency. As coronavirus cases rise in Europe and other parts of the world, the flight to safety is likely to boost appetite for the Dollar. This is bad news for many emerging markets currencies, especially those with high Dollar-denominated debt.
On the commodity side, Oil prices remain heavily influenced by demand-side factors and the state of the global economy. Prices are likely to remain stuck around the $40 regions in the near term, especially If another round of possible lockdowns hit Oil demand. Looking at the technicals, WTI Crude is under pressure on the daily charts. If prices are unable to break away from the sticky $40 regions, the next key point of interest remains around $38. A weekly close above $41.50 could pave a path towards $43.
NCC Arrests Man for Hacking into DSTV System
Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), has arrested one Mr Aliu Olalekan, for allegedly hacking into DSTV system and watching the channels free without subscription.
Mr Matthew Ojo, NCC Director in the Lagos Directorate Office said this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He said that the suspect used to watch DSTV channels free without subscription on his Android phone via an app which he downloaded on google play store.
“This suspect distributed the know-how to his telegram followers and on his blog with the aim of gaining more followers and viewership on his blog and makes more money through google ad-sense.
“The operation was based on surveillance which had earlier been carried out by the Multi-choice team and verified by a copyright inspector, ” he said.
He added that the arrest was made in collaboration with a team of copyright inspectors led by the Head of Enforcement Department, Mr Charles Amudipe.
Others included; a team from Multichoice Nigeria led by Mr Umar Ibrahim and policemen from Lagos Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
Ojo said that the joint team conducted an anti-piracy operation at the premises of the culprit in Amukoko, Lagos.
According to him, the suspect was contacted on phone by a member of the operation team on the disguise of patronising him. “The suspect came out to meet the caller and in the process of discussion, he was apprehended.
“The suspect took the team to his resident. The squad paraded his one-room apartment and recovered his laptop and phones used in perpetrating the ungodly act. “He was arrested and brought to the copyright commission office for further investigation, ” he said.
Ojo said that, on getting to the commission’s office, the statement of the suspect was taken and the inventory of items seized from him taken. He said that investigation on the matter was still ongoing and if found guilty the suspect will be charged to court.
NCC, Digital Encode Support NITRA Innovative Tech Forum On Post-COVID-19 Strategies
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator and Digital Encode, Cybersecurity and Compliance advisory company, have indicated interest to partner with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the national umbrella body of ICT reporters, as it organizes a forum that will x-ray the industry’s future plans for ICT growth post pandemic era.
The event, slated to hold on October 15, 2020, will seek to discuss the needs for a fortified ICT sector after the COVID-19 era, and the level of preparedness of ICT stakeholders to embrace the challenge of being pivotal to the stability and growth of all other sectors.
A statement from NITRA National Secretariat in Lagos indicates that due to the pandemic and need to observe the COVID-19 protocol on social distancing, the event will be held via a Webinar.
This year’s theme, “Multi-stakeholder Approach To National Recovery Post-Pandemic”, is in line with the annual event’s generic theme, ‘NITRA Innovative Tech Forum’, a contribution by NITRA to the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations and policies in Nigeria.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the event and will throw more light on Federal Government’s plans, programmes and policies on post-pandemic strategies using ICT.
Dr. Adewale Obadare and Dr. Seyi Akindeinde, founders of Digital Encode, while accepting to support the event expressed their readiness to offer their expertise in Cybersecurity for organisations to prepare against cyber- attacks with the new normal.
They will also highlight areas that are high risks that need fortification in terms of cybersecurity.
Speaking on the event, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi, national chairman, NITRA, noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its negative trails across the globe, economic reboot for countries will not only depend on how well they readapt to the new normal, but also more on their recovery plans.
According to him: “While the federal government has consistently expressed its willingness to set all policies in place to engender growth, and accelerated implementation of these policies, private sector firms have also shown great hunger for the task ahead in post-COVID-19 era.
However, the question that needs to be answered is whether all stakeholders are ready for the required task ahead.”
The event will also offer participating companies opportunities to publicize some of their individual efforts at contributing to reacting a soft landing or lifeline for SMEs and other ancillary companies as the pandemic threatens their survival.
Digital Encode is a multi-award winning and leading consulting and integration firm that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
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