Fatumata Coker, chairman, national organising committee of the Chartered Institute of Directors Nigeria (CIoD Nigeria), a professional institute that trains directors and develops corporate governance practice for organisations, in this interview with Damilola Odifa, speaks on its 2023 annual directors’ conference taking place on November 16-17, 2023 and how it would impact directors, businesses and the overall economy. Excerpts:
Can you give us a brief introduction about CIoD Nigeria, what it’s about, and how it is different from other professional institutions in Nigeria?
The uniqueness of the institute is stated in its name. It is a place where professionals that have come to the level of strategic vision, directing organisations, parastatals, government entities, or governing anything can develop their professional standards, and get the best practices across the globe to know what works and what doesn’t.
The most important thing about IoD is that it is interested in directors that are effective in a way they position Nigeria on the map.
If we are able to create individuals who can elevate to directorship, and that directorship is all about governance, transparency, and effective delivery, it makes any nation, company or agency sustainable.
For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, a lot of companies went under because they didn’t have the kind of structures in place that enabled them to systematically stay alive.
But the ones that had solid directorships survived and that’s what the CIoD does. It creates a community of leaders who are able to really steer the Nigerian economy in a way that we can all be proud of.
How was the institute able to achieve charter status?
The founding fathers were looking at a model that had been successful, so they looked to the United Kingdom. In the UK, the IoD has done a good job in producing some very remarkable directors for the UK government and for the public sector at large.
And so, with that vision for Nigeria, came the IoD of Nigeria, which was an affiliation at the time. But being a chartered institute now means that I have become independent. So, it’s a very big deal. It shows that we have grown up and we somewhat don’t require parenting anymore.
So it’s a huge deal and we’re looking forward to the success of this amazing achievement in the years to come based on our memberships, our affiliation with corporations and other bodies, political, and public sector as well, and focusing more and more on building that pipeline.
We have young directors coming up who are trained in professionalism so that they continue to impact their businesses in whatever they do while promoting that competence across the board.
CIoD is holding its annual directors’ conference next week. Can you tell us about the conference and expectations and the speakers and dignitaries at the event?
We are having the conference in Abuja and it is perfect at this time because we have a new government. Most of our members who are directors on different boards will have an opportunity to network with the government.
We have a line-up of very exciting individuals that will be participating and as you know, the theme of the conference is around the Nigerian economy, transformation, diversification, and the role of corporate governance.
The conference will address questions such as what diversifying means and if we’re going to be within transformation, what does that mean in the scheme of governance.
Do you just throw out everything, who checks if you’re trying to get rid of something that might be actually essential to the strategy of the organisation or the different functionality bases in the company.
We will also be talking about how to optimise the main driven talents in Nigeria which are people. Every time we talk about mineral resources and how rich Africa is. But to me, people are the most valuable ones. So, we are excited to present the plenary that will just focus on demand-driven talent.
We have invited President Bola Tinubu as our special guest of honour, Abbas Tajudeen, speaker of the House of Representatives as our special guest of honour for the conference dinner, and Tahir Mamman, minister of education as the guest of honour.
Other invited dignitaries include Ernest Ndukwe, chairman of MTN Nigeria, Olusegun Aganga, chairman of Leadway Pensure PFA limited, Sani Bello, chairman of Mainstream Energy Solutions, Bola Adesola, chairman of Ecobank Nigeria and Mele Kyari, group chief executive officer at NNPC Limited.
Is the conference restricted to members only?
No, non-members can also attend the event but they will pay a little more than members. In the past, we have always had members only attend the conference but over the last two years, we have been focusing on looking at the demographics and understanding that we do have a young population and that we need to encourage them to get involved by aspiring to be in the boardroom or at the director level.
According to a recent report by Agusto Consulting, the percentage of Nigerian women on boards surged to an all-time high in 2022. But it is lower when compared with 36 percent in South Africa, 41 percent in the United Kingdom and 35 percent in the United States. What can you say about this?
Women are increasing but not fast enough. We need to continue the awareness and the education, which is what IoD is doing. And, now that it is chartered, we have the ability to influence that demographic to become more certified and be ready to take leadership positions.
We are encouraging this through our program called the ‘Women Directors Forum,’ where anybody that decides that she wants to become a director in the next two to three years can start to build that muscle before the time comes. That’s one way of doing it and we will continue doing that at the institute.
The forum is available for members and non-members. CIoD does a fantastic job announcing most of the courses and education throughout the year.
What has the institute done so far in terms of capacity building to change the business landscape in Nigeria?
We are training directors in line with what the market needs. In times of adversity, you need innovation, structure, and competence which are some of the objectives of the institute.
Promoting professionalism through education, information sharing, networking opportunities, competence, celebrating excellence at individual and corporate levels are the most important.
Over the last 40 years, we have provided this not only for the private sector but the public one too. Directors in the public sector can go through the institute, get their training, and be competent.
What initiatives or projects have been introduced over the last 40 years towards making an impact in Nigeria?
We have done a lot towards making an impact in industries like hospitality, energy, retail, real estate, banking etc. We are very much entrenched in making sure that leadership capacity is not just at the top level but at the bottom too.
The institute helps you to know the essence of really understanding your duty as a director. We make sure that people sitting on boards or directing the company know what they do.
You can be a managing director but still be responsible to your shareholders but do you understand what that means? You can also be an executive and may not know what that role means, what you’re liable for or not, and what could happen if you did certain things or publicly put out information without passing through the right governing structure.
How can directors tackle challenges confronting governance in Nigeria?
First of all, know what it means to be a director. A director is not just a manager or supervisor. Once you understand that, go and seek the right kind of education, capacity, and competencies that will make you excel in that role, because once you’re a director, you become responsible for producing other directors.
And if you’re replicating nonsense, then you’re just putting out more trouble in the world than necessary.