Nigeria’s Postal Service (NIPOST) has, over the years, been an important driver of the nation’s economy.
From its old, but familiar name, the Post and Telecommunications, P&T, the sector has contributed to manpower development, job and wealth creation, among other laudable areas the industry has impacted on the economy.
However, over the industry has undergone many regulations.
But more importantly, it had also suffered from abandonment by subsequent governments, such that it has undergone acute and haemorrhage and financial bankruptcy.
However, the current regime under the leadership of Barrister Bisi Adegbuyi, Nigeria’s Postmaster General is envisioned as being on the part way of rewriting and re-positioning the Agency to a world- class money-spinning and job generation sector. Tony Nwakaegho examines the Agency’s re-positioning stride and its implication for the economy.
Nigeria’s Postal Service, (NIPOST) has been in a near state of comatose during the previous regime, not doing what is needful to position it as a sector that can added value to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
The Agency is further disrupted by the digital era where the Internet and e-commence amongst others, are the hallmark of individuals, industry, government establishment, logistics and so on in doing businesses.
Investigation has shown however, that Barrister Bisi Adegbuyi, Nigeria’s Postmaster General, who emerged from outside the Agency is currently working to modernise and streamline its operations; and has plans to diversify it into profitable organisation, with value adding financial services, e-commerce and logistics; insurance, shipping and property, to provide quality postal services that satisfy the aspirations of all stakeholders.
NIPOST, which is the designated postal operator for Nigeria has 10,093employees, spread among 2,795 post offices throughout the country and handles around 10 billion mail items a year.
In this era of cybercrime and illicit drug transit around the globe, Adegbuyisaid that NIPOST is planning to train sniper dogs to detect criminals using service’s networks.
“I know that criminals use our networks to transport narcotic and banned substances. We have always been alive to our responsibility. We will go into training of sniper dogs to assist us in detecting nefarious activities. We will not relent on our efforts.
“Recall the advent of Internet has had its misfortune on postal system all over the world. They call it disruptive technology. It has affected mail volume but the beauty of it is that it has brought many opportunities in the areas of packages. It is one area that is exponentially growing. People are buying stocks online,” he said.
The PMG said that Nigerian migrant workers remit between $23 billion and $24 billion into the country annually; stressing that NIPOST would start financial services.
He said, “We stand to make a lot of money from remittances in Africa. That is the formal aspect, the informal sector has not been captured and our people pay 12 per cent on each of the remittances. When post office is involved they will bring down the cost of remittances.”
He said,“I appeared on global forum on investment, remittances and development in New York; and we had a round-table on the role of postal operations in remittances. They can’t push Nigeria back because we have the number here.
“E-commerce is one area that is exponentially growing. People are buying stocks on line. If they are buying stocks online, necessarily those parcels must be delivered by an institution and the institution that is better placed to do that is of course NIPOST because of our reach, worldwide.”
Adegbuyi was however, quick to state in a recent interview that current challenges were not synonymous to the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), but postal agencies all over the world have encountered challenges because of disruptive technologies.
He disclosed that he had to look at the NIPOST consultants’ report from Netherland; in conjunction with the World Bank, World Enterprises of Nigeria and the Federal Government of Nigeria contracted to examine the dynamics and internal workings of NIPOST.
He hinted that the “report has been there for nine years and my predecessors in office either didn’t have the political courage to implement it for various reasons, as civil servants, and they left it untouched. And I have looked at it and started the implementation of the report, creation of the seven zones, six commercial business units in line with the current reality and what is happening in the world.”
According to him, “We have created Express Mail Service, (EMS), and counter operations, logistics, e-commerce, property and financial services. Also, in the course of looking at the operational challenges of NIPOST, we realised that they have been old track and rail system, which is analogue, and commenced logistics and lands while ensuring that we migrate from the analogue to Integrated Power System (IPS) 2015 version that will enable our customers to track their mails and packages online. Which means that customers can, from the comfort of their homes track their mails, parcels and packages.”
He said, it is the technology that has created e-commerce that allows people to shop online and the products have to be conveyed and delivered to them, noting that it is one area that NIPOST will leverage upon because “we have created the logistics via EMS while using appropriate technology.”
Asiwaju Adegbuyi lamented that past governments allowed individual to encroach on NIPOST’s property; and warned those who had encroached on the property to quit the place.
Specifically, he said: “Unfortunately, the past is history. I have been a lawyer for about 30 years’ and I am into real estate. That is my turf. Unfortunately, again, it does appear to me that management had slept on their rights.
“They had acquiesced on some of these responsibilities. That is not going to happen under me. People who believe they can take laws into their hands.
“People who are lawless; there are some big men in the society who are just vagabonds in power. This is our collective patrimony.”
He said,“Nobody is bigger than Nigeria. This is a very vital national institution. What I am saying in essence is to warn those who had encroached on NIPOST’s land to give up peacefully because, NIPOST under my leadership will not sleep on its rights. As I have once told people, the sleeping giant that has been sleeping is awake to its responsibilities.”
He underscored addressing system as another issue that is a problem all over the world.
NIPOST has now announced its adoption of the innovative global addressing system – what3words. Nigeria is the seventh country to adopt what3words, and the third in Africa. The system is already being used for mail deliveries in Mongolia, Sint Maarten, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Tonga and Solomon Islands.
Available records, gathered by Daily Times have shown that Nigeria’s poor addressing system means that only 20 per cent of its inhabitants receive mail at home. 79 per cent of homes and businesses cannot receive deliveries to the door, and the remaining 1 per cent receives their mail using one of the 478,000 P.O. boxes throughout the country. A postcode system does exist, but only 5 per cent of mail gets properly addressed with the postcode, hampering the efforts of NIPOST to improve its quality of service.
NIPOST, which has set itself the ambitious target of increasing home delivery to 70 per cent within the next two years; and 90 per cent by 2020, through the Mail for Every House Initiative (MEHI) has adopted what3words to help it achieve these goals.
The innovative global addressing system has divided the world into 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3 word address. It means that every home and business in Nigeria has a simple and accurate address that is easy to remember and to use. For example, ///bracelets.hesitations.mutes refers to the exact 3m x 3m square at the entrance to the main post office in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
What3words is available in 14 languages, with many more currently in development and used in over 170 countries by governments, postal services, logistics companies, emergency services and Non Governmental Organisations, (NGOs) as well as individuals.
It is more accurate than traditional street addresses, simpler than landmark-based directions, and easier to remember and communicate than global positioning system (GPS) coordinates.
The system has built-in error detection and is available through a free mobile app and application program interfaces (API) integration. The system even works offline, without a data connection.
Barrister Adegbuyi, said, “We are very pleased to be collaborating with what3words as an addressing solution with huge potential to unlock opportunities.
“Better addressing is a key to NIPOST’s agenda, which aims to transform, innovate, and deliver more services to more people all over the country.”
Chris Sheldrick, CEO and Co-founder of what3words said that with a rapidly growing ecommerce ecosystem, Nigeria is a very exciting country to be working with, adding that ,“Postal services have a critical role in building a strong economy and NIPOST are firmly focused on the future, and are taking steps to modernise and grow their capacity and range of services.”
Sheldrick said that, “3 word addresses are easy to remember, and to share via email, text or over the phone. The addresses are pre-assigned, using an algorithm and each 3 word address refers to a precise 3m x 3m square somewhere in the world. The what3words API is being integrated by business, apps and services across the world in a wide variety of sectors. It is also used by individuals via the free what3words app.”
The PMG said his target is to ensure that “we block leakages as much as possible in the system, because we still operate brick and mortar system. NIPOST has become an organisation that is determined to use appropriate technology through automation. When processes are automated, leakages are blocked.
“And I can assure you that when we do all of these, we reduce leakages in the operations and because we are diversifying, our income generation will soar. Once revenue is increased, it will impact on the GDP of the country. Other areas are also there, because we are in the process of amending the stamp duty bill that would allow NIPOST to benefit from the new opportunities in electronic stamp duty protocol.
“Before now, NIPOST was selling stamps manually, but it has developed capacity for electronic platform simply because the Internet has given us other avenues of making money via PoS transactions, online banking and other areas that we need to develop electronically for appropriate stamping to make money. The responses are quite encouraging, once the stamp duty tax is passed, we will make lots of money for the economy.”
Once the stamp duty tax is amended and passed, he said then NIPOST will be able to cope with disruptive technologies that are enveloping everywhere.
Daily Times learnt that sequel to the commitment to change the fortunes of NIPOST in line with the three Is: Innovation, Invention and Integration which every member of staff is expected to imbibe, the Agency has picked up the pieces and is rising in leaps and bounds, adequately deploring technology by staying afloat in line with global best practices, truly diversify the nation’s economy, and improving the GDP.
He said,“We also have to decisively deal with some formidable challenges including dilapidated infrastructure, low morale of staff and low deployment of technology. Since assumption of office of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the fortunes of the agency had changed for the better.”