Together with the public sector and civil society organisations, private sector players in Nigeria have called for collective action to build a culture of integrity in the Nigerian economic system. This call was made by panelists of the first Integrity Roundtable taking place in Lagos, Nigeria. The event was thematically focusing on “the role of the private sector in building a culture of integrity”.
In collaboration with the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (AHK) Nigeria, the roundtable was organised as part of several entry activities of the Alliance for Integrity into the Nigerian ecosystem. The session hosted Business Executives, CEOs and Managers of several international, multinational and local enterprises including, Weststar Associates Limited (Mercedes-Benz), Aelex, BASF SE and Guinness (Diageo).
In her opening speech, the Delegate for AHK Nigeria, Katharina Felgenhauer, underscored the importance of the Alliance for Integrity to enter into Nigeria, stressing the point that corruption was the main challenge of businesses in the country. Citing a study conducted by AHK Nigeria in 2019, she remarked that the SMEs who participated in the study indicated that compliance and integrity was top on issues that they were focusing on. “Personal integrity from business leaders is playing an essential role to be compliant also in their businesses,” Felgenhauer stressed. She strongly invited the participants to have an open discussion on the effects of corruption in the business environment and advocated for a collective measure to deal with the issue.
Panelists at the roundtable took turns to clearly outline the issues on integrity and compliance. They explained compliance to be an output of the environment, consisting of policies, systems, structures, and personal integrity. Building on these ideals, the panelists encouraged businesses to ensure people adhere to the set rules in their companies and within the economic system. It was noted that, in creating a culture of compliance, room must be made for errors and support systems; and care must be taken not to put fear in the employees but to encourage an environment that welcomes open discussions to address emerging issues.
In moving the discussions forward, participants highlighted the complexities of the business environment which apparently forces companies to act inappropriately in order to stay in business. Specific references were made to red tapes in business operations with the public sector. As such, there was a call for collective action between both the private and public sector aiming to adapt specific solutions to specific challenges in the economic system that facilitates corruption. With this said, the private sector actors foregrounded their critical role in promoting a responsible business environment through active engagements, collaborations and collective actions. The case was made that there were enough relevant laws, legislations and regulations to help achieve a responsible business climate. The statement was accompanied by a collective call that was made for the strict implementation of anti-corruption laws and adherence to the compliance standards in order to achieve the set objective.
In her closing remarks, Katharina Felgenhauer, maintained that corruption was expensive in the long run, and advised businesses to institute a culture of compliance in their organisations, starting with a clear ‘voice from the top’. “We need continuous dialogues and engagements of such nature to discuss the topic of anti-corruption”, Felgenhauer emphasised. She admonished the participants to sign on to the Alliance for Integrity Initiative, as a credible platform to achieve this objective.
Panelists at the roundtable included Dr. Jean-Marc Ricca, Managing Director of BASF West Africa, Mr. Theophilus Emuwa, Managing Partner, Aelex, Ms. Ikwo Okutinyang, Compliance Manager, Guinness (Diageo) Nigeria, and Mrs. Ebere Aninih, General Manager, Legal Compliance and Human Resources, Weststar Limited (Mercedes-Benz).
Authors: Gideon Mankralo & Christiana Gada