Mr. Cletus Akhigbe

Mr. Cletus Akhigbe is the President of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN) and a man on a mission to take the message of safety to every nook and cranny of Nigeria. In this interview with Safety Record’s Paul Mbagwu, he explained the motivation behind NISCN’s grand HSE Summit tagged ‘HSE in Our DNA: The Billionaire lifestyle’ held in Lagos on April 11 and other issues in the safety industry in Nigeria. Excerpt…

NISCN just concluded the hosting of its HSE Summit. What informed such a grand event at a time like this?

If you were at the event, you would have heard when Jamiu Badmus said, “My President, you said and you did it. You said it last year that you were going to do it.”  So it is not something that just came up today. It was a very sincere heart desire to bring people together, teach them, train them and bring more people into the profession. And to show them the right way to go in the profession. To bring together professionals, leaders in the profession and captains of industries in one place free, and nobody would pay a dime to come in. I have had this in mind from the day I became the president. It is one of my desires that I would love to (host) yearly at different places in the country and not just Lagos to bring people together. All these would be free and nobody would pay a dime for it.

Why the use of that particular theme for the summit, ‘HSE in Our DNA: The Billionaire lifestyle’. We all know HSE is not yet our culture in Nigeria?

We came up with that theme because that is the reality of safety. Safety is, one, supposed to be a lifestyle; we should have a culture of safety in our lifestyle. Two, HSE on its own is a money-making venture and not a money-wasting venture. So. It is a billionaire lifestyle to inculcate safety into our life and business and in all we do. Have you taken the time to calculate the cost of an accident? Have you taken the time to calculate the cost of death? Can you return life taken by one person’s mistake? By one unsafe act, people have lost their lives.

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In that summit, we had someone who had an (accident) in the cause of his job. He told us his side of the story. Today he is deformed; he can’t do the things he used to do. He can’t wear his shoe. Why? For over one year the injury is still not gone – he lost most of his fingers. At this point, I want to ask you, do you think HSE is a money waster or a money spinner? When most companies don’t support or subscribe to safety, it shows they don’t know the gain in HSE. And this is one of the things we wanted them to know – that there is millions in safety. You save lots of money in safety. You save yourself from litigation; you save yourself from a bad reputation. I hope you know that one bad reputation can destroy a company for life? One bad reputation, you hear, “that company wey them dey always kill people”.  HSE culture will save you your reputation and will make you have more customers. You will be able to satisfy your customers, retain your staff, and your staff will be happy. They will also be productive. Do you know the emotional challenges when there is an accident and fatality? With a robust HSE culture, you save lots of money, and you even reduce your premium. In the civilised world, insurance companies don’t take safety as a joke. They make sure their clients understand what safety is because it helps both the insurance company and their client. This is because the safer you are, the less you pay the premium.  The more accidents and incidents you have, the higher your premium.

How did you make this happen? We have had so many presidents live through this office who we barely hear a thing about…  

Can I be very frank with you? It is God! The first such is that he is loaded me with wisdom. I must give him glory for that. My brother, if I open up to you a lot of things I would love to do, how I would love to see HSE in Nigeria improve, so we can compete with anybody in the world, but I just can’t do all because of the constraint. The truth is: how did this happen? There is a passion for this profession, a passion that supersedes money when it comes to this profession in my life. Money, fame, name it, the passion for the profession supersedes them. As you can see on the council’s logo, “Making the country safe since 1964”. I want to see NISCN make this country safe, in any way we can do it.

So the truth is, there was this desire to push safety through to as many places as we can. There was this, ‘it can happen, we can do it, it’s possible’. It’s capital intensive, but the truth is God saw my heart, and truly this is what I would love to achieve. I would love to do this in the 36 states of the country if I have the finance. God in his infinite mercy just did it. There was this preparation that met opportunity and the two clicked. I know what I wanted and God knows what I wanted and he just brought the right company to finance it. So, Century Energy and GPI financed the programme from A to Z. So, the truth is to be focused and to know what you want as a leader. Know what you want to be known for and what you will want to leave behind. Why were you called? It’s a calling. This office is a calling. I know my money, time and energy that I have put into it, even when it looks bleak. The truth is, there is that innermost believe that it is possible. This thing can work. So with that God just brought this meeting and it just clicked. Today it is history.

We witnessed a reconciliation move at the summit. There we saw the President of ISPON, and former registrar and some other aggrieved members in an embrace. Was that a coincidence or that was what you set out to achieve?

It was just a coincidence arranged by God. This is also because God knows my innermost desire to see ISPON get back together united. God sees my sincere heart and all the efforts I have put in as an individual to see how we can bring back this baby of ours which is actually the rallying point of safety in Nigeria. I have done what I should, but to be frank with you, it will shock you to know that it is not even the person that most people are thinking is the obstacle that is the obstacle, to our move. NISCN in conjunction with lots of NEC members which includes most leaders of safety in Nigeria agreed to mediate in this matter in one of our NEC meetings. One of the factions was in that meeting and grudgingly agreed after which we had an agreement and wrote them based on what we agreed and appointed somebody to lead the mediation. We were supposed to hold it in Abuja. We sent them the letter of mediation with three separate dates to choose from when the meeting could hold and to tell us what they think. It will shock you to know why that thing didn’t go through. I don’t want to talk about it here, so I wouldn’t be misunderstood. But to be frank with you, it is not the person many thinks is scuttling the reconciliation move that is kicking against it. So we are not going to give up, we are going to do all we can to see that ISPON is united again.

But for that day, it was divine. I expected that they should build on that day. Many things I’m seeing show that the leaders did not take advantage of that day. There was no need for us to have left that place that day before we agreed. We ought to have ended the crisis in that meeting and do something about it. A few days ago I posted the reconciliation picture on Safety Advocate WhatsApp Group with a few lines and as I am talking to you, no human being commented on that issue. No human being commented on that picture. I am dazed. I am telling you the truth.

What should Nigerians be expecting after this?

As God gives grace, and finance, a lot of things are coming. We are planning to replicate the same thing in other states. NISCN is 55 years this year. And we want to see how we can celebrate our 55th year. It’s not easy to be 55 years (old). We are planning a big one. We want to appreciate those who are there on behalf of safety in Nigeria.   We want to encourage more people to come to safety in Nigeria.

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