Many Nigerians must be shocked to know that the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST, still exists. The deregulation of the Posts and Telegraph, P&T, sector which enabled the private GSM companies to bankrupt the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd., NITEL, had, for almost 20 years, also rendered NIPOST irrelevant.
Gone are the days when a posted letter would take six months to get to its destination, if it ever gets there. Text messages, emails and the plethora of social media have given the people direct control of their messaging, in real time and at minimal cost.
Postal services all over the world responded to the Information and Computer Technology, ICT, revolution by privatising or folding up. But our own NIPOST did neither. It became another bottle-fed, salary-guzzling federal agency. Many of its branches in the 774 local government areas of the country were abandoned.
The recent outrageous “licencing” fees issued by the comatose NIPOST is simply unfathomable in logic and commonsense. On July 23, 2020, NIPOST set new guidelines for courier and logistics companies which are clearly meant to cripple the private sector operators and restore NIPOST’s unearned relevance.
Licence fees for international courier companies (example, DHL) were doubled from N10m to N20m with renewal fee increased by 40 per cent. National operators (such as GIG) are to pay N10m instead of N2m with N4m renewal cost. Regional licences are now N5m with N2m renewal cost, while state operators will pay N2m and N800,000 renewal cost.
Smaller state zonal operators will pay N1m with N400,000 renewal cost, while operators with less than five bikes are to pay the SME licence of N250,000 per bike. Besides, companies are required to remit two per cent of their annual revenues.
The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has suspended the policy due to public outcry. There is no guarantee they won’t bring it back. The first anomaly here is that NIPOST is regulating an industry in which it is a participant.
It does not happen in any civilised, market economy because of obvious conflict of interests which will work against the private sector. As an operator, NIPOST must hands-off regulation. It should pursue its partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, aimed at converting its offices nationwide to microfinance banks.
This increase is a declaration of war against struggling and innovative Nigerian youth exploring their ICT savvy to boost the service industry and support the COVID-19 economy through home deliveries. Governments at all levels must resist the evil impulse of harassing, intimidating, extorting and asphyxiating the logistics companies and their delivery bikers.
The federal and state governments must not frustrate efforts by small and medium scale businesses through the predatory use of state power. They must be serious in implanting government’s touted Ease of Doing Business, EODB, policy.