Dakuku Peterside, immediate past director general/CEO of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Senator Victor Ndoma Egba and Nnaemeka Maduegbuna, chairman of C&F PORTER NOVELLI, have advised businesses operating in Nigeria to evolve effective government relations strategies as they navigate the corridors of government and seek to influence policies.
The advice was given in Lagos as GTPro, Africa’s foremost government relations consultancy firm, unveiled a set of services to top business leaders in the oil and gas, telecommunications, manufacturing, and financial services sectors, in what is set to give form to the age-long practice of government lobbying in Nigeria.
The services were announced during a masterclass on government relations and public policy strategy organised by GTPro in Lagos.
“By these services, the age-long practice of lobbying would begin to take form and operate within the ambit of professional guidelines and stipulations,” Dakuku Peterside said in his welcome remarks at the masterclass.
Peterside, a turnaround expert, former member of the House of Representatives, and co-founder of GTPro, spoke on behalf of chairman of GTPro, and former minister of Works, Senator Mohammed Daggash.
He said that business sustainability required significant tact and know-how on the part of businesses.
According to him, it also entails ability to effectively navigate through compliance with laws, government policies, and regulations that potentially can positively or negatively impact their operations and overall success.
This, according to Peterside, requires access, knowledge of the law, good rapport, and ethical practices, which are not very much available at the current mode of businesses in their attempt at engaging lobbyists.
“Business failures owing to lack of understating of policies have led to gross loss of revenue and investment on the part of founders, managers, and multinationals operating in Nigeria.
“To stem this tide and set businesses on the part of sustained success, businesses operating in Nigeria would require the services and counsel of experts, who have both the know-how, skill set and experience of how government works and who understand the law.
“GTPro is set to offer an assemblage of experts across fields and over cumulative 50 years’ experience in both the private sector and public service, in data, understanding of the law, policies, regulations, and research,” he said.
Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, who presented the keynote paper at the masterclass, noted that government and business were like the Catholic marriage that was practically inseparable. Egba said government was like air and businesses could not do without government, and vice versa.
“For this reason, an effective process of communication and interaction between government and businesses becomes of extreme importance,” Egba said.
“This is what GTPro would be providing to businesses as they set out to engage the top leadership of organisations across sectors of the Nigerian economy,” he added.
Renowned public affairs expert and chairman of C&F PORTER NOVELLI, a business and strategic communications consultancy, Nnaemeka Maduegbuna, who presented a paper on the effectiveness of policy affairs strategies, noted that the practice of government relations would be better suited within the larger spectrum of public affairs.
Speaking from his wealth of experience, Maduegbuna submitted that a lot could be salvaged with effective public affairs strategy on the part of businesses. He said that there was need for businesses to engage the services of experts, for ethical reasons, as they navigated the corridors of government.
Maduegbuna said the traditional approach of businesses having on their boards non-executive members- individuals they perceive would have government access- would not offer much.
“This is because the dynamics of engaging government and influencing policy are broad, extensive, and require a detailed strategic framework that the individuals would suffer limitations in delivering,” he said.
The half-day masterclass also hosted the founder and Chairman of Proshare, Femi Awoyemi, and former member of the House of Representatives, Bimbo Daramola.
Daramola highlighted the fact that businesses suffered the most in the area of understating of government policies.
“Every policy of government has its roots in the laws of the land, and where there is a lack of knowledge of the law, a lot of error is committed and these errors lead to loss of revenue, loss of investment, and eventual collapse of the businesses,” Daramola stated.
He advised that organisations operating in Nigeria needed to put structures to how they engaged government and attempted to influence government policies.
During the panel session moderated by ESG Strategist and Risk Management Consultant, Bolarinwa Onaolapo, panellists all agreed that the time had come for the needed structure and professional guidelines that could regulate the practice of government relations and lobbying to be put in place in Nigeria.
They acknowledged that whilst Nigeria lacked such, other developed countries, like the United States, had well established structures that govern the practice. The panellists agreed that lobbying was a formalised professional practice that operated within the ambit of the law.
The masterclass submitted, in the panel discussion, that GTPro was bridging a long missing gap, and it would be to the advantage of businesses to begin to find a structured process that could guide their efforts in engaging government as they thought about their success and sustainability.
Other participants at the masterclass included Managing Director of Michelin Nigeria, Chioma Alonge; Director, Corporate Communications and CSR, Airtel, Femi Adeniran; and Business Development Director, China Harbour Engineering, Luke Liu.
Participants noted that the masterclass provided valuable knowledge, skills, and insights that will help them effectively evolve strategies to manoeuvre the intricate landscape of government policies and regulations.