Crisis Management Case Study
Stakeholders Engagement: Effective tool for crisis management
How Systemspecs engaged professional associations to good advantage to manage a crisis
Genesis of Systemspecs crisis in respect of Remita
On November 10, 2015, the nation woke up to the news that the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria had discovered how “financial scavengers and economic cankerworms” were trying to sabotage the anti-corruption war President Muhammadu Buhari was believed to be prosecuting by mismanaging the Treasury Single Account [TSA]. The man at the centre of the discovery was Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye. He had raised an alarm over a massive corruption operation going on in the management of TSA.
As such, in a motion moved by Melaye titled, Abuse and Mismanagement of the Treasury Single Account [TSA], he frowned at the massive funds allegedly being siphoned by a company known as REMITA. He had blown the whistle at a previous plenary session that REMITA was bleeding the nation of billions daily. He told the Senate that the Federal Government on September 15, 2015 mopped up N2.5 trillion through its e-collection agent called REMITA.
REMITA and N25 billion allegations
Melaye added that REMITA charges 1% of all monies passing through it, of which 1% of the N2.5 trillion mopped up on September 15 alone amounted to N25 billion largesse given to REMITA for “doing nothing”. Accordingly, the appointment of REMITA as an agent for the operations of the TSA negates and contravenes the constitution. The activities of REMITA, he insisted, are a gross violation of the BOFIA Act and another attempt at ripping Nigerians of taxpayer’s money. He alleged that REMITA, hired to manage the TSA, was making N25 billion daily in mopping up about N2.5 trillion. 19 Senators supported the motion, while 31 others co-sponsored it.
Systemspecs’ reactions to the allegations
The allegations were a shock to the systems of Systemspecs. Therefore, to make a way out of the maze, Systemspecs invited its PR consultants, eMaginations, to a strategy session, which lasted for hours. While the strategy session was underway, the news had taken another dimension. The team, therefore, turned its attention to monitor the different versions of the story. The haze misinformation had clouded the face of the media. It was a blizzard. While the team watched, the news had become a trend on Twitter account within hours. Before you can say Remita, the news had attained a fresh twist. Suddenly, REMITA had morphed into Remi Tinubu Ahmed – REMITA.
The bandwagon effect
One distorted account on Facebook interpreted REMITA as belonging to the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s wife, Remi Tinubu, a Senator. Several Twitter accounts and Facebook pages were agog with myriads of convoluted story. All of them were replete with misinformation, wrong figures, and unsubstantiated quotes. Those who you would referred as the “informed” had joined the bandwagon. Some columnists, opinion writers, and bloggers were writing about the TSA and REMITA as if writing science fiction: Many surprises and half-truths.
In all of these, Systemspecs management had agreed to the “no retraction, no denial, no interview” strategy. The team agreed that this is a political crisis; as such, it would get a different treatment. “What should we do then?” The Managing Director of Systemspecs wanted to know.
A case against 1% agreement charge
While the controversy raged, the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] Governor, Godwin Emefiele was silent. When he eventually spoke, he subtly indicted former CBN governor, under whose tenure the agreement with REMITA deal was signed. When the Senate quizzed Emefiele on December 9, 2015 over the 1% agreement charge credited to REMITA, he exonerated himself. He told the Senate that contacted the Director of Systemspecs, and the CBN halted further payment to Systemspecs. “In all sincerity, I did not know there was 1% transferred to Systemspecs. REMITA was to take 50%, other banks 40% and CBN 10%”, Emefiele said.
What Systemspecs did right
The team could understand rightly that the Senate wanted Systemspecs’ head on a platter. But, wait a minute. The facts of the matter were sitting there in one office. Why was nobody talking about it, not even the Senate, and the media? The CBN had stopped further payment to Systemspecs. Yet, Systemspecs continued to support the Remita platform. To correct the misinformation, from communications viewpoint, the company rallied support of all industry stakeholders and professionals because, as part of the team’s strategy, third party voice would sound loudest.
Stakeholder engagement and management
To state the case clearly, critical stakeholders were involved. Documents obtained from the CBN, OAGF, and Ministry of Finance helped douse the controversy. The stakeholders engaged include key members of the media, Nigeria Computer Society [NCS], Institute of Software Professionals of Nigeria [ISPON], non-governmental organization, etc. once these stakeholders understand the depth of the issue at stake they, in turn, became Remita mouthpiece.
The narrative changed
Faced with the truth, the Senate and other parties with malicious intent sheathed their swords. Suddenly, the narrative changed. The story was no longer around the 1% service charge. It changed to how TSA has helped the federal and state governments to unearth ghost workers, how it has helped to curb the excesses of the ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs], and how other countries have shown interest in the implementation of the TSA for their administrations. In all of these, the communication team did not issue any press release, nor was there a need for one. Now, the storm is over.