Until recent times, the place of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) in the comity of postal services in the world was not an enviable one that an average Nigeria could beat his chest about. At a point, its state grew so bad that many people thought it had gone into oblivion owing to the manner of NIPOST operations, its archaic approach to innovations and even the unpolished appearance of various post offices across the country – which gave a nod to many that these assertions were true about the agency.
Unfortunately, little did our postal agency know that time and tide would quickly tilt towards information communication technology until things began to take a new twist. This belief buttressed the saying that the only thing that is permanent in life is change. When Marshall McLuhan in 1940s foresaw the world becoming a global village, many critics took him for a clown. The truth is now quite obvious world over with the evident technological development that is daily dotting every aspect of human life and dealing. The 21st century in particular has been phenomenal with numerous strides such that any individual or organization that is not on a fast-lane with trend would suddenly be irrelevant and in no time be forgotten.
About 40 years ago, who on earth gave a thought to the likes of the Internet and various social media that have re-defined communication globally. Today, we enjoy the ease of E-mail, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Instagram, Skype, Youtube, various search engines, among the arrays of “info-tech convenience” in the world. These have in no small measure engendered handshake across continents.
The Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) came into being with the establishment of the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) on January 1, 1985 following the merger of the Telecommunications arm of the defunct Post and Telecommunications Department of the Ministry of Communications with the former Nigeria External Telecommunications Limited (NET) through the promulgation of decree No. 18 of 1987. It became an extra-ministerial Department to provide and operate facilities for collection, dispatch and distribution of inland and overseas mail at reasonable cost as well as provide and operate facilities for remittance of money through the money or postal order systems.
NIPOST is saddled with the responsibility of providing and operating philatelic services in Nigeria. The agency is meant to print and provide postage stamps for payment of postage tariff and payment of stamp duties as well as present Nigeria in relations with other postal administrations and other bodies concerned with postal services. The agency is to determine the need for post offices, postal facilities and equipment while it provides and establishes non-postal or similar services in addition to exploring other services to boost its revenue.
As beautiful as these roles are, the postal agency with time went out of sight such that many concerned Nigerians were wondering what could have gone wrong. Unlike other climes where in spite of the digital age, their postal agencies are still viable revenue generating bodies for government as people and companies in large number patronize its services day-by-day. For example, the United States Postal Service (USPS), employs about 617,000 workers, making it the third largest civilian employer in the United States behind the Federal Government and Wal-Mart. In a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Court noted: “Each day, according to the Government’s submissions here, the United States Postal Service delivers some 660 million pieces of mail to as many as 142 million delivery points.” As at 2016, the USPS operates 31,585 post offices and locations in the U.S., and delivers 153.4 billion pieces of mail annually.
The diversification of USPS is obvious in its ownership of one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world, with an estimated 227,896 vehicles. The majority of these vehicles are the easily identified Chevrolet/Grumman LLV (long-life vehicle), and the newer Ford/ Utilimaster FFV (flex-fuel vehicle), originally also referred to as the CRV (carrier route vehicle). It is by geography and volume the globe’s largest postal system, delivering 47% of the world’s mail.
It is commonly said that if you keep doing things the same way, you will keep getting the same result. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, having assessed what was the cause of the unpalatable state of NIPOST decided to bring its helmsman from outside rank and file of the agency.
This informed the appointment of Asiwaju Bisi Adegbuyi in July 2016 as the Post Master General of the Federation. Although to some people, the decision to bring an outsider to Head the agency did not quickly go down with some groups of people but the results it has been yielding in the last one year have been phenomenal for the benefit of the nation at large.
Without delay, Adegbuyi’s hunger for a new NIPOST is obvious in his innovative approach which has been brought to the table in the last one year. The manner he resolved lingering issues relating to leadership and morale of staff members of the agency enabled the take-off of the agency under his saddle to be seamless. Unlike what it used to be, the present leadership has shown commitment to revamping NIPOST by making provision for market-driven postal and people-oriented services through innovation and technology to boost commerce and further diversify the nation’s economy.
In a bid to make the 1,858 post offices across Nigeria more effective in its service delivery, the present leadership has been introducing different innovations and entering into agreement with various stakeholders to give a new lease of life to the agency. Not long ago, NIPOST sealed pact with Bank of Agriculture (BoA) to boost accessibility of credit facilities to rural farmers via the post offices which would serve as a one-stop outlet to render financial services to farmers since 70 per cent of postal outlets are located where farmers live. This would enable the postal agency to make available its infrastructural facilities to agricultural communities close to it.
It is on record that in 2016, NIPOST generated an encouraging sum of N8.8bn as revenue in 2016 as contained in the Annual Postal Services Data 2016 released by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The income realized from stamp duty, EMS/Speed post service, parcel clearance/ delivery fee and international mail income respectively. The report showed that NIPOST handled a total of 33.6m mails domestically and internationally within 2016 which was an indication of exponential growth of over 30 per cent of mail.
Recently, NIPOST joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Postal Day by launching innovative and game changing products as a way of modernizing the activities of the agency by adopting digital approach in service delivery for more convenience at lesser cost. The event which was tagged, “Posting the Post into Prosperity,” had the agency unveil its new and lofty products which included, e-commerce services, financial services in rural areas, NIPOST transport services, and e-government, among others.
The products, according to the Post Master General of the Federation would completely transform and modernize postal landscape in the country. It would make the agency to be more efficient while it also creates job opportunities for unemployed Nigerians. The development would invariably, would improve socio-economic services and further boost its revenue base. The products would also make the postal agency more attractive as it fast-tracks the ongoing reform process.
With the fervor that has been put into the Nigeria Postal Service in the last one year, the need to make the job easier through legislations and stronger political will on the part of the Federal Government is now more important than ever. As such, the National Assembly, should expedite action on the amendment of Stamp Duty Act 2004 to provide answers to whether the use of an adhesive postage or electronic stamp to denote document or receipt , or registrable instrument amount to the repayment of stamp duty tax. The amendment of this act which is termed obsolete by many stakeholders would help the agency compete favourably in the digital age. And the effective service delivery would in no time meet the demands and yearnings of many Nigerians.
The strides made so far by NIPOST within the space of one year brings the popular quotation of Archimedes, the great scientist to mind, who said, “ if I have all that I need, I will shake the world.”
Then, I strongly believe that the present leadership of NIPOST, if has the wherewithal, it would indeed not disappoint the entire Nigerians in taking postal services to the desired haven given the inherent potentials in its renewed drive to compete unrelentingly in the 21st century.
- Femi Onasanya wrote from Abeokuta