By Franklin Alli
On June 4, 2015, Chief Bassey Edem was elected the 55th National President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA. In this interview, he explained what he hopes to achieve for the body; the main challenge the Organised Private Sector is facing, among other issues of economic importance. Following are the excerpts: Congratulations on your recent election as president of NACCIMA.
Thank you very much.
What motivated you to join the membership of NACCIMA; when and under which category – individual or corporate?
I have been a corporate member of the Chamber of Commerce Movement for almost three decades now. First as a member of the Calabar Chamber of Commerce in the early 1980’s then I was the Managing Director of PAMOL Nigeria Ltd, a subsidiary of Dunlop Nig. Plc. I rose to become the President of the Calabar Chamber of Commerce in 1996.
The Chamber of Commerce movement is a platform for Business Advocacy and Networking and business organisations should of necessity long to be a part of the Chamber movement otherwise they would be short changing themselves, missing out on Networking, and even some government policies and initiatives might not be possible for them to connect with.
These were the reasons for PAMOL joining the platform. This passion continued even after my retirement from PAMOL.
Looking at your background-chartered accountant, administrator, industrialist, how would you bring your expertise to bear on NACCIMA over the next two years?
Let me quickly point out here that I have been on the hierarchy of the highest decision making organ of NACCIMA for quite some time, therefore I have been involved in the programmes and activities of the Association; this is also in addition to my being at the top management levels of several multinational companies in the country. Combining these experiences would aid my aspiration in moving the Chamber movement to its enviable heights of being ‘The Voice of Business in Nigeria.’
Are you satisfied with the level of NACCIMA’s advocacy with the public sector? If so, what government policies you have influenced to improve the fortunes of local industries and indeed the private sector in the last four years; what are your priority areas for the Association?
The NACCIMA as a Business Membership Organisation (BMO) has done fairly well in its advocacy role in recent time, although we can always do better. The Association has played a leading role in the initiation of some of the intervention funds of the Federal Government, and through our Pre Budget memorandum to the Federal Government we have been able to influence some budgetary decisions over the years.
We observe that the Organised Private Sector, OPS, of which NACCIMA is a member, is not active as a body on issues affecting the economy and the private sector. This is despite the enlargement of the body from three to five. What is your take on this; now that NACCIMA is the Secretariat of the OPS, how are you going to address this?
The OPS has been actively involved in the economic programmes of the Federal Government, it is important to note here that NACCIMA and some other OPS members are members of some of the Federal Government Board and Parastatals and through this we have been able to influence some decisions.
The complexity of Nigerian system which had led to the proliferation of several groups being referred to as “Organised Private Sector” with different agenda and interest has hampered some of these efforts. Let me emphasise here, that the real OPS comprises of NACCIMA,MAN, NECA,NASSI and NASME, and we have been representing the interest of the generality of the Nigerian Business Community.
At this time that NACCIMA is the head of the OPS, we will ensure that our feasibility and advocacy role would be enhanced and we would ensure that the interests of all business operators in the country are taken care off.
We heard that the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission is coming out with new tariffs to be effective July 2015 to 2018; What is your reaction to this, having in mind that consumers are not getting value for power supply?
NACCIMA’s position on this issue is that the Electricity Provider must justify the tariff being levied their consumers, while the regulatory commission ensures that due process are followed for increase in tariff. In as much that the investors in the Power Sector should not run at a loss, there should be value for what consumers are being asked to pay for. All I am saying in clear term is that electricity consumers must enjoy a sustainable degree of regular power supply.
You once presided over the natural rubber association of Nigeria and a council member of international rubber study; what is the current state of the rubber industry in Nigeria and what is Nigeria’s share of the global rubber industry?
The rubber industry in Nigeria is actually under- utilised, considering the abundance of the cash crop in the country. This situation arose from the total neglect of rubber industry since the discovery of oil in the country. Rubber which used to be the fourth largest foreign exchange earner for Nigeria after crude oil, hide and skin and cocoa, has since been neglected by previous governments.
Nigeria’s share of the global market has actually dropped significantly away from what it used to be in the 80s.
Equally due to some previous policies some of the rubber related industries relocated from Nigeria but is room for improvement, especially now that the Federal Government is keen on diversifying the economy. It is our firm belief that the present government would create an enabling environment for the rubber industry to further find room to operate in the Nigerian economy.