Winning in a game of Tennis revolves around a player’s ability to hit the ball back at the opposing player with as much dexterity as possible. Getting the ball back across the net ensures that the bulk does not end in your half of the court, in which case you would have lost a point. The flurry of warnings and notices of closure/service outages from core service providers to Nigerian customers in the last week of May 2015 was rather suggestive of a weakened tennis player who could do no more than swing his racket and hit the ball in the direction of the hapless spectators rather than at the terrifying opponent.
It was undoubtedly the toughest of times for the nation and its citizenry faced what commentators arguably referred to as the worst fuel scarcity situation ever recorded in a country that has become synonymous for fuel queues over the years, despite being a major global exporter of crude oil. So this was clearly not the characteristic, walk in the park fuel scarcity situation that everyone had gotten used to; agreed. However, the actions and reactions of many corporate organizations ranging from radio and TV stations, banks and financial service providers to telecoms service providers and airliners could not have painted a grimmer picture of hopelessness for the customers at such a difficult time. Two major telecommunications service providers were the first to throw up their hands in submission to the monstrosity of the situation, and just about then, core service providers in other sectors started throwing in the towel in record time as if in a game of firsts.
The shutdown not only caused stress for customers but almost threatened the national sovereignty of the country. The critical question therefore to be asked is, should we hold the national government responsible for lacking a national continuity plan that applies to fuel scarcity situations or should businesses have had their own comprehensive continuity plans independent of any government intervention?
Interestingly, amidst the doom and gloom, a start-up ecommerce firm, Jumia Nigeria stood out and positioned strategically to take advantage of the situation. It was prepared for such a situation and also used the opportunity to promote its energy efficient product lines. That is resilience in the face of adversity and the big businesses have a lot to learn from the fast growing online retailer.
As a continuity professional, I would hope that lessons were learnt from the past experience and that both the government and private organizations are better prepared to manage any such distressing situation in the future. A national continuity art on the part of the government and a total business resilience plan for privately run businesses will definitely save valuable downtime hours and greatly impact on both national and corporate competitive advantage. The wow factor is in that simple question that observers will be asking “how are they able to stay open?”
Adewale Akinwale is the Head of Enterprise Risk Management at the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (Nahco Aviance). He was named finalist under the Awards category of Industry Newcomer of the year 2015 by the Disaster Recovery Institute USA.