CSR: ICSAN takes Journalists Back to Class on Fundamentals of Reporting Corporate Governance
The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN) today organized a one-day “Refresher Training” for a select section of the media to further sharpen their skills with focus on “Understanding the Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance 2018 from media perspective”.
The training which held at the institute’s office local Central Business District, Alausa, Ikeja is the professional body’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contribution to the country’s socio-economic development and good governance explained the Mrs. Lynda Onefeli, Chairperson, Publicity & Advocacy Committee, ICSAN.
According to Mrs. Onefeli, the body finds the training expedient because the media is “one of our most critical partners and also as the ‘fourth estate of the realm’, plays a very important function in the society as relates to keeping all government organs, agencies and businesses on their toes to ensure adherence to corporate governance and global best practices.
In her presentation to the media practitioners, Mrs. Ezinne Njoku-Obi. LLM FCIS, Principal Partner at Olive Chambers, while giving an overview of Nigerian Code of Governance (NCCG 2018) said the Code derives its authority from sections 11c and 51c of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN) and it is aimed at establishing best practices in corporate governance in Nigeria so as to restore confidence in the Nigerian economy and build an atmosphere for viable and sustainable business operations.
Giving a background, she disclosed that the Code was unveiled on the 15th of January 2019, by the Minister for Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah as a “framework to ensure good corporate governance practices in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy… by articulating a broad set of principles on corporate accountability, transparency and sustainability for both public and private companies in Nigeria”.
Hence, the core principle of the code bears on how to make those in the management of the companies more accountable, responsible and sensitive to the interest of shareholders, creditors and members of the public, she noted.
This NCCG 2018 Code is ostensibly different from the 2016 version in that it prescribes that companies should adopt the ‘’Apply and Explain’’ principles as against the more forceful ‘’comply or else’’ stance of the of the latter.
“The Apply and Explain approach assumes that all principles have been applied and, therefore, requires companies to demonstrate how the specific activities they have undertaken best achieve the outcomes intended by the corporate governance principles specified in the Code”
The NCCG has six key governance pillars which include board of director and officers of the board; Assurance; and relationship with shareholders. Others are business conducts and ethics; sustainability and transparency.
Principle 26 of the NCCG requires companies to pay adequate attention to sustainability issues, including environmental, social, occupational, community health and safety hazards.
Drilling deeper into the document, Mrs Njoku-Obi noted that there are 28 principles and each has practices recommended for their implementation. However, expected outcomes when followed through, should enhance business integrity; rebuild public trust and confidence; facilitate trade and investment while also driving business sustainability.
“For effectiveness, the FRCN has the mandate to monitor the implementation of the Code and is empowered to issue guidelines towards the implementation by the sectoral regulators”
Also of critical importance in the Code is “IT governance issues”. This aligns with the ever-growing importance of technology in today’s scheme of things. The facilitator disclosed that an annual IT governance assessment will need to be performed to ascertain that the right policies, processes and controls are in place to ascertain the overall management of enterprise data; including its availability, integrity, confidentiality and overall security.
“Major considerations in this regard should include; policies, standards and strategy; data quality; privacy; compliance; security; proactive monitoring and management of cyber threats and attacks as well as adverse social media incidents; integration of IT at various levels”, she revealed.
The 2018 Code encourages the board as part of its responsibilities to ensure that the company is in compliance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other applicable regulations. It also requires external auditors to report to any regulatory agency where companies or anyone associated with the companies commit an indictable offence under any law. This also is why the issue of compliance, transparency and whistle blowing are encouraged every step of the way.
Also delivering his presentation on “Fundamentals and Ethics of reporting corporate governance”, Dr. Fassy Yssuf, President/Chief Consultant, VDG International Ltd, having highlighted the salient roles of the media in good governance, noted that it is the function of the media to convey information to the people with a view to letting them know how good corporate governance is being executed by organisation generally, especially by those covered under the Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance.
Other roles of the media in this responsibility, include acting as purveyors of corporate governance news and issues; providing analyses on corporate governance issues/matter as would enable the people to secure an adequate understanding and background to corporate governance issues/matters; and to assist in the articulation and pursuit of good corporate governance interest;
The media should also monitor the performance of companies/organisations with a view to preventing their deviation from clearly stated guidelines provided by the FRCN; they should also provide informed criticisms and viable alternatives on corporate governance matters and help strengthen the economic and social fabrics of the society while working harmoniously with ICSAN for the delivery of strategic and tactical good corporate services to the nation.
To do these effectively, the facilitator advised that Journalists must hold fast to the profession’s traditional kernels of truth; first loyalty is to citizens; fact checking; independence and its surveillance role must be held sacrosanct.
Dr. Yusuf also submitted that Journalists must provide a forum for cross fertilisation of ideas on CG; strive to make significant stories in corporate governance interesting and relevant and keep CG news comprehensive and proportional. He also advised that the media men must recognise citizens rights and responsibilities in CG news gathering and dissemination.
While advocating Corporate Governance Investigative and data driven reporting, Dr. Yusuf highlighted that the process should include getting it right, proof of the credibility and reliability of investigation.
“Computer-assisted reporting- access digital information from databases on the internet, become knowledge creators by compiling and analysing information not previously collected or examined, acquire data from every conceivable sources and place the information into a searchable database for analysis, master analytic techniques, the data must be appropriately configured”, he counselled the Journalists.