By Henry Uche
The year 2020 will soon be a history. Many has analysed the year under review and summerized in a positive note while others rounded it off in the negative for certain reasons.
To the president /Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute Of Personnel Management Of Nigeria (CIPM) Wale Adediran, insecurity in form of Terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, robbery and official bullying through multiple taxation and levie will put Nigeria at great disadvantage as the country starts AfCFTA implementation in 2021. In this interview, Mr Adediran affirmed that, only professionals across board can rescue the country from abysmal collapse. Excerpt
So many things happen in 2020, the global pandemic, insecurity, the nine (9) months ASUU Strike, retrenchment of workers, some companies downtooled while others wind up, does this in any way help anyone?
All these have worsened the economic conditions of Nigeria and Nigerians, especially those at the bottom of the social ladder. We could all see the spontaneous responses that followed the combined effects of all of those. The scar has not healed and will surely take many years to heal, especially in a state like Lagos that was the worst hit. Prolonged ASUU strike had again hampered the development of skilled manpower for the nation and has created a multi-year catch up challenge for the country. The worst was the impact of the lockdown on many Nigerians in the low income and disappearing middle class economic classes. These and SMES were the worst hit. Many companies and inviduals have either scaled down their economic activities or shutdown completely. Obviously, these are not desirable outcomes. They will take many years of catch up to reverse. We all, government and citizens must work together to ensure we do not experience another lockdown, strike, violent protest or retrenchment of workers again, at least not on 2021 and the next few years we need to catch up.
How did covid-19, insecurity and other unfortunate incidents affect you as an Institute?
2020 is a year everyone would wish to forget quickly for the disruption it brought into our lives across the whole world. No one could have ever projected that there would be only five months in this year! We had January, February, Wave1, EndSARS and now Wave 2. The pandemic and the insecurity experienced in the year made it a year like no other for all Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike. With an economy that was just turning the corner of a recession into fragile growth, as well as a health infrastructure that was sub optimal, the death blow by the pandemic and the rising insecurity was the last straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. The painful but necessary lockdown that followed helped to flatten the curve of infection rate and death tally, but the socio economic impact was felt by the bottom of the economic pyramid and the disappearing middle class. The government and the people of Nigeria must be commended for the swift and detailed response and resilience, which had helped in keeping the nation afloat. A lot still needs to be done and I will address that later.
The impact on our Institute as well as our profession had been massive. As the body empowered to define the standard and regulate the professional practice of human resources management in Nigeria, our Institute came under enormous pressure and extremely high expectation from institutions and individuals in both the public and private sectors of our nation. As the situation is unprecedented, the existing practice codes became rather obsolete for managing workers, work and the workplace. We rose to the occasion and doused the initial tension and panic with clear guidelines to our professional colleagues and members, to seek means with human face for their organisations to cope without throwing multitude of workers into the abyss of unemployment. That resonated well with most organisations which explored various creative options to sustain some level of income for most of their workers to survive the lockdown period. Our professional colleagues adopted virtual collaboration tools and protocols to stay up to date with their businesses and best practices to stay afloat. We were also thrown into other leadership roles as human resource management professionals, to lead crisis management efforts of our various organisations and entities. HR professionals worked as front line workers more or less, in the battle against the pandemic in our various organisations. Indeed, most organisations in Nigeria lived the mantra that people are our most important assets.
The business of the Institute was also impacted at our headquarter. We shutdown our physical activities and moved all our flagship events to virtual platforms. From our Annual General Meeting to our public fora as well as our skill development programs and even our first ever pan-African Conference, we recorded great firsts and commendable successes. Where we lost the great benefits of face to face fraternities, we gained wide reach with more than ten Africa HR Institutes and leaders of global HR bodies represented at the conference and other events. We have bitter sweet experiences with virtual work and we will build on the sweet spots to sustain the gains. Virtual is here to stay for good!
What is your outlook for 2021?
We strongly believe that the economy will open up in 2021 as we will significantly put the pandemic largely behind us, following the release of more vaccines against Covid19. We also believe that the Nigerian economy will benefit from that and the economy will grow again though marginally. With growth, we expect improvements in the unemployment and under-employment situations in the nation. That should help improve the security outlook and boost food production. The place of digital economy will be significantly elevated, given the experience of 2020. Work will shift more and more toward virtual. With that and free movement of labour as AfCFTA takes off in 2021, the labour market will become more competitive and only the upskilled and technology savvy will greatly benefit from the economic shift we will see in 2021.
What advise would you offer the Govt at the centre?
The government must tackle insecurity. Terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, robbery and official bullying through multiple taxation and levies will put us at a great disadvantage as we start AfCFTA implementation. Our ports must be efficient. Forex management should be liberalized; we can’t compete against free market economy in the rest of Africa under AfCFTA regime, if our market dynamics remain as is. We must invest in education and manpower upskilling to be competitive in 2021. The government must empower professional institutes like CIPM to ensure only professionals lead government departments that help to formulate and implement government policies that will keep us competitive in a unified market in Africa.