Post Of­fice should bounce back

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

As­cant two decades ago the Post Of­fice was the hub of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and many other com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in ev­ery ma­jor Nige­rian city and town. Th­ese days many peo­ple do not even know the road to the Post Of­fice, which are mere shad­ows of their former selves. The most im­por­tant fac­tor that led to the fall of the Post Of­fice was the phe­nom­e­nal growth of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy in the last three decades. The com­ing of mobile phones and the in­ter­net were par­tic­u­larly im­pact­ful; now most com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Nige­ria is done by mobile phone, text mes­sage, email and chat plat­forms.

Still, that should not have led to the to­tal col­lapse of the postal ser­vice. There are many other things that NIPOST, the agency re­spon­si­ble for posts in Nige­ria, can do if only it had ad­e­quately re­sponded to the chal­lenge of the in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy age and repo­si­tioned it­self to pro­vide those ser­vices. Such ser­vices, if prop­erly pack­aged and ef­fi­ciently man­aged, will greatly add value to the Nige­rian econ­omy and make NIPOST a very im­por­tant fac­tor in the econ­omy and so­ci­ety.

We say all th­ese be­cause the In­dian Postal Ser­vice, for ex­am­ple, has not col­lapsed like NIPOST even though In­dia is far ahead of Nige­ria in the evo­lu­tion and pen­e­tra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy. As op­posed to NIPOST which em­ploys 20,000 peo­ple, In­dia Post em­ploys over 400,000. Un­like NIPOST which is in its death throes, the In­dian postal net­work has reg­is­tered a six-fold growth since in­de­pen­dence with the ex­pan­sion fo­cused pri­mar­ily in ru­ral ar­eas. It is the most widely dis­trib­uted postal sys­tem in the world.

It has man­aged to sur­vive the chal­lenge of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy partly be­cause of its in­tense ru­ral fo­cus. 89.78% of In­dian Post Of­fices are lo­cated in ru­ral ar­eas. In ad­di­tion, In­dia Post is also in­volved in other ser­vices such as small scale bank­ing and financial ser­vices. Luck­ily, it is not too late for NIPOST for bounce back. A ray of hope shined through re­cently when the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, Fed­eral Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Dr Tunde Olaopa said NIPOST would be able to ab­sorb a greater num­ber of youths in its work­force if the cur­rent ef­forts to re­po­si­tion the postal sec­tor are sus­tained. Speak­ing at an event to mark World Post Day, Olaopa said NIPOST’s financial, elec­tronic and phys­i­cal as­sets can con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, job cre­ation and poverty re­duc­tion as con­tained in postal re­form pro­grams. He fur­ther said the Na­tional Postal Com­mis­sion Bill, which has been ap­proved by the Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil, will be the guid­ing tool for op­er­a­tions in the sec­tor.

Al­though there ad­vent of mobile phones, text mes­sages and e-mails has dras­ti­cally re­duced the amount of let­ters that peo­ple send through the Post Of­fice, there will al­ways be a need for the send­ing of parcels and hard copies of doc­u­ments. Even be­fore the ad­vent of mobile phones and e-mails, NIPOST al­lowed pri­vate couri­ers ser­vice com­pa­nies to take over this as­pect of the mail busi­ness be­cause they were much more ef­fi­cient.

This is a chal­lenge that NIPOST must face up to be­cause it will no longer en­joy a mo­nop­oly in any sec­tor that it dab­bles in. The ex­am­ple of its former twin sis­ter NITEL is enough to guide it in this mat­ter. For, not only is the par­cel ser­vice busi­ness still alive and kick­ing, but there is a new growth area in e-shop­ping. There are now sev­eral in­ter­net shop­ping firms in Nige­ria which need to move around a lot of stuff. NIPOST can cap­ture this po­ten­tially large and grow­ing mar­ket, but only if it can out­com­pete pri­vate firms in terms of cost and ef­fi­ciency.

Even in the olden days, the Post Of­fice pi­o­neered money trans­fers through the postal or­der and money or­der. It is a shame that it did not evolve this ser­vice when banks moved in with their ef­fi­cient elec­tronic trans­fers of to­day. Luck­ily for NIPOST, banks also tend to be con­cen­trated in the ci­ties so much like In­dia Post, NIPOST can carve out a large and lu­cra­tive niche for it­self with ru­ral bank­ing and financial ser­vices.

The key watch­words there are in­no­va­tion and ef­fi­ciency. Pro­vided the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment lends a help­ing hand and NIPOST’s lead­er­ship proves it­self to be vi­sion­ary and in­no­va­tive, the Post Of­fice could be­come a key na­tional in­sti­tu­tion once again.

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