AfricaBusiness & FinanceNigeria

COVID-19: Govt should focus on human capital development- Olaniyonu

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The Managing Partner of Hercules Professional Services, Adeyemi Olaniyonu, a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, an Associate of Certified Chartered Accountants of United Kingdom, founder of Mr Ice and Crown Academy Nigeria, a professional tutorial center where professional students in accountancy receive lectures to attain certificates, in this interview with OLUWASEUN SONDE speaks on how Organizations can survive amidst COVID-19 and what Nigerian Government can do to get out of this recession caused by the virus pandemic.

Can you briefly tell us about Hercules Professional Services?

Hercules Professional Services is a professional firm providing Assurance, Tax and Advisory services. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, we serve a diverse client base ranging from private individuals to small-medium sized businesses. We provide Audit, Tax and Advisory services, individually or on a combined basis, delivering globally consistent multi-disciplinary skills and capabilities, based on extensive industry knowledge, to all our national and international clients. We respond to our clients’ complex business challenges with a global approach to services that spans industry sectors and national boundaries. Global capability and consistency are central to the way we work.

How do Hercules Professional Services helps organizations to survive amidst COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the major factors needed to survive a crisis such as this COVID-19 pandemic is resilience and the ability of the organization to adapt to the new normal way of doing business which means meeting esteemed clients need and as well as engaging new clients. Hercules Professional Services has a robust business continuity plan that is fully activated and in operation which focus on servicing our clients need using technology as well as maintain our corporate values in our business activities. We would be launching our online learning platform before the end of August this year that would help build the capacities of SMEs in their various marketplace. Furthermore, we strongly believe that we need to support our clients in navigating through this pandemic and ensuring that their business not only survive but thrive. If our clients continue to be in business, we too will be in business.

Recently, the Finance Minister said Nigeria is entering another phrase of recession because of COVID-19, what do you think the country can do to sail through?

Nigeria is not the only country facing recession the whole world economy has recessed because of COVID-19 pandemic. Nigeria can get out of this recession better and stronger if government at both federal and state level can look in ward and focus more on human capital development, provision of basic infrastructures and promote efficient and effective civil service. Our country revenue has suffered deeply because of COVID-19 and basically 90% of our revenue comes from oil and with the drop in oil price Nigeria government have responded by cutting down the 2020 budget and also borrowing of funds to meet government expenditure which is more of short term measure but not sustainable in the long run.

At current revenue levels, Nigeria’s external debt service and loan repayment will be a big challenge since crash in crude oil price and depleting foreign reserves has already led to a devaluation of the Naira. Nigeria government needs to spend more on human capital development as the country has unmatched economic potential, but what becomes of that potential depends on the choices made by our leaders. The most important choice to make is to maximize our greatest resource, the Nigerian people.

Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If government invest in their health, education, and create opportunities then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If we do not, however, then it is particularly important to recognize that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow. On infrastructures, despite some progress over the past decades, levels of access to basic physical infrastructure such as clean water and improved sanitation, electricity and (paved) roads in Nigeria are inadequate given its income levels and its rapidly growing population.

Further, access levels tend to be below the average of its African income peers, and Nigeria significantly is behind most of its global income peers. Physical infrastructure is the backbone of any developed economy and a pillar of quality of life. Addressing Nigeria’s infrastructure challenges will require sustained expenditure of almost $14.2billion per year over the next decade, or about 12 percent of GDP. As a point of comparison, China spent about 15 percent of GDP on just infrastructure investment in the mid-2000s. About $10.5 billion is needed for federal infrastructure alone, most of it for capital spending and power.

Nigeria already spends $5.9 billion per year on federal infrastructure, equivalent to about 5 percent of GDP. Existing spending patterns are heavily skewed toward investment, with little provision for operations, and maintenance. A further $2.5 billion a year is being lost at the federal level due to inefficiencies of various kinds, most of them associated with the power sector. The underpricing of electricity is by far the single-largest source of inefficiency, even though cost-recovery tariffs would be affordable for most of the population. Low capital budget execution is also an issue across the infrastructure sector.

Nigeria’s infrastructure challenges, though substantial, are not daunting given the strength of the national economy. While recent policy measures suggest that the government is taking these challenges seriously, more remain to be done. The associated growth dividend is well worth pursuing.  Lastly the Civil service is one of the agents of development in any nation. The transformation of any society or system depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of its civil service, particularly, the developing societies.

In Nigeria, as in other developing countries, governments are carrying the bulk of the burden of economic development. The state, being the biggest employer of labour because of lack of a well-developed private sector, has thus become one huge instrument for stemming unemployment and other socio-economic miseries. The wider society looks up to the civil service not only to implement development goals and administer government policies on a day-to-day basis, but also to play significant roles in formulating development strategies, policies and programmes in such a way that will stimulate accelerated social and economic changes. Such desired changes are naturally expected to include reduced unemployment, increased social products and a more equitable redistribution of income. Yet these desires remain unfulfilled in the face of festering unemployment and poverty.

The Civil service today is a battered institution, which has virtually lost its attributes of anonymity, neutrality and security in tenure, an institution in which moral has reached its nadir, in which excessive caution, undue bureaucratic practice and in terminable delays have become the hallmarks. The institution is seemingly resistant to dynamic change and has become the object of constant public criticism. In fact, it is almost the most important institution of Nigerian state affecting the life of citizen. It is essential to modern life because of the roles it plays. Therefore, for civil service to be more effective in its developmental roles, the government of the day must reform the civil service structure with major focus on service delivery, professionalism, meritocracy, and the adoption of technology.

To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. People without roads, ports, and factories cannot flourish. And roads, ports, and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them cannot sustain an economy. Education leads to improvements in employment, productivity, and wages. Today, though, more than half of rural Nigerian children cannot read and write.

How does Hercules Professional Services affect the life of people in general?

We do impact people generally through training and we are currently focused on building small business owners and their organizations capacity as we observed that one of the major challenges facing business growth in Nigeria has to do with knowledge as a lot of businesses do not have a plan for continuing learning. We also observed that most indigenous businesses in Nigeria do not survive from one generation to another and with proper training a business owner must always have succession plan in place for their business.

Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?

We want to be one of the leading professional firm in Africa and to build a world-class business school for emerging entrepreneurs in Africa as we believe Africa problems can only be solved by Africans. 

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