The silent reforms at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, in line with President Muhammadu
Buhari’s next level agenda, makes the College one of the best Management Development Institutes in Sub-Saharan Africa.
By Ovie Edomi
First, it was a drive round the College, then a tour, which took almost an hour. Indeed, the entire exercise provided the magazine’s reporter with more than enough to see. One can see almost everything happening inside the College through the gaps of iron fence and at least the imposing Administrative block, the lecture theatre, water works and the chalets located in phase One of the College. Across phase one, is an imposing 500-seater auditorium, with lecture theatre, a canteen, 2 generators in the power house. The buildings in phase two of the College stood out alongside other structures and facilities. Inside, phase two are located Central Bank of Nigeria intervention projects made up of 60-bedroom hostel block, two high rise buildings with each having six 3-bedroom flats for guest lecturers, 500-seating capacity auditorium with eight syndicate rooms as well as water works, all at completion stage. Welcome to the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, Badagry, Lagos State.
Established through decree no. 39 of 1973 now ASCON Act Cap 6 Vol 1, LFN 1990, ASCON’s mission is to consistently provide excellent management training, consultancy, research and allied services for performance improvement in all sectors of the economy. The implication is that ASCON as a Management Development institute, MDI, is expected to provide higher management training for the development of senior executives of the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy. The College is also expected to provide and arrange for a comparative study and investigation of the principles and techniques of management and administration, for exchange of ideas and experiences and for the promotion of better understanding between persons connected with management and administration arising in different spheres of national life.
Since its establishment, ASCON has played host to over a million senior public servants and top executives from the private sector, who had participated in one management course or another.
This is to be expected from the nation’s premier Management Development Institute because the present crops of ASCON management work assiduously to maintain a high performance standard, and ensure timely response to the needs of clients and stakeholders in addition to ensuring that the human capital plays an over-riding role in the achievement of set objectives of the College. The College’s pride therefore is in the competence and general effectiveness of its human capital as well as its ability to provide and arrange for a comparative study and investigation of the principles and techniques of management and administration, and for exchange of ideas and experience and for promotion of better understanding between persons connected with management and administration arising in different spheres of national life. Other objectives include to conduct research into problems of management and administration arising in different national life, to undertake, organize and facilitate study courses, conferences, lectures, seminars, the publications of journals, research papers, books amongst others.
Beside the high quality of ASCON’s programmes and training, the College’s programmes are designed to identify and examine contemporary management challenges; and over the years it has met the training needs of both the public and private sector establishments. In addition, some ASCON’s programmes are specially designed intervention programme/training based on special requests by MDAs, such trainings are always critical to the attainment of the goals and objectives of the individual MDAs and ultimately the entire public service.
Generally, ASCON training programmes are categorized into five broad groups-regular training, seminars/workshop/conferences, Bespoke (client driven programme, induction courses and Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration done in collaboration with the University of Lagos. Since the current Director-General resumed office, the College has continued to consolidate its drive for excellence in service offerings as well as improvement in physical facilities. For instance, on assumption of office, there was no functional electricity generating set and thus the College relied on power supply from the national grid which hardly comes more than three hours on days such power was available. That challenge was eventually surmounted with the purchase of an 800 KVA generator. This, together with the two 2000 KVA generators supplied through the CBN intervention project, power supply in the College has been stabilized. Equally, the quality of water generated has been improved upon significantly. The faulty air conditioners in the Double Rooms participants’ accommodation had been replaced and the Single Rooms accommodation have been renovated and made more habitable to participants and other guests. The facilities in the classrooms have also been improved upon.
The magazine reporter who went on a tour of ASCON facilities asked some of the participants about the standard of the classrooms and training equipment and they described them as world-class. Besides, Omoyibo Samuel, a Senior Customs officer who just retired told the magazine that he did a PGDPA in the College. While in ASCON for the programmme, he found the College a home away from home. According to him, ” The standard of the hostel facilities, the constant supply of electricity in addition to modern teaching equipment make the College one of the best in Africa”.
Insiders told the magazine that since Cecilia Umaru-Gayya, mni took over the mantle of leadership in the nation’s premier MDI, the number of participants on College programmes has continued to increase. A breakdown of participants enrollment is shown in table 1.
In addition to these numbers, the College in collaboration with the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Regional Centre, Accra trained 136 Young West Africans from Seven African Countries in 2017 and 205 more in 2018.
A staff of the college who the reporter met at the Administrative block said, “When people come to make inquiry about ASCON courses and programmes and they see the way and manner the College is being run, they do not hesitate to register for programmes. Beside those who are on admission for one short course or the other are repeat customers who equally have participated in ASCON’s training programmes through collaborations with state governments or international bodies. These former participants continue to spread the good news regarding the systemic change and infrastructural improvements occurring in the College. The implication is that more people are now soliciting for the training of their workforce in various states across the six geo-political zones.
This is aside from a wide range of consultancy services that the College offers which includes, Training Needs Assessments, Job Analysis, Staff Personnel Audit, Executive Search, Strategy Formulation, Preparation Of Strategic/Business Plans, Organisational Restructuring, Feasibility Studies, Pre-Retirement Planning And Preparation, Programme/Project Management, Monitoring And Evaluation, Human Resource Strategy Development, Small Business Management, Entrepreneurship Development, IT Strategy Development and so on.
In line with the high demand for training, ASCON decided to establish zonal offices in the six geo-political zones. It is instructive that the North Central Zonal office in Minna and the proposed North Western Zonal office in Kano were offered to the College by the State Governments. Apart from the decentralization of the training centres to the zones, one thing which participants spoke gloriously of, is the faculty staff of ASCON. This is to be expected as the magazine gathered that the Management of the College has redoubled its effort at building the capacity of the staff through various training courses and other international conferences. Statistics show that 51, 122 and 100 staff members were trained within and outside the country in 2017, 2018 and2019 respectively to keep them abreast of new development in public sector management, general management concepts and methods among others. The breakdown is shown in table 2.
In addition, the College also engages experienced faculty staff from other reputable management training institutions to complement what the College faculty staff offers. True to the determination of the College helmsman, some top civil servants who came to ASCON for a short course told the magazine’s reporter that what they learnt in ASCON both in practical teaching and group discussion was far better than what they learnt when they went to Dubai some years back.
Apart from the courses being highly comprehensively taught, one of the participants says it was highly participative. Most times discussion sessions account for 50 per cent of the course time, and at every discourse, there are highly beneficial things to take home. The group exercises and case study analysis are some of the most interesting aspects of the teaching methodology he stated in smiles. Similarly, a Professor in ABU told the magazine reporter that not until ASCON came to conduct a management programme designed for Deans of Faculties and Directors of Centres that they realized that ASCON is vast at resolving performance problems and has arrays of experienced professionals.
‘Without equivocation, there is hardly any MDI in sub-Sahara African that has the kind of manpower that ASCON has’ this much was stated by Williams Umukoro, an alumnus of ASCON and a director in the Delta State House of Assembly Commission. Furthermore, Umukoro noted, “All the period I was in ASCON, I saw hard work, team spirit and a strategic effort to make the College one of the best MDIs in Africa”
No doubt, ASCON is being transformed to an internationally respected Management Development Institute with a proven track record of excellent trainers and a dynamic Chief Executive whose motto is “yes we can do it”. That is to be a world-class Management Development Institute involved with cutting edge performance and state-of-the-art technology.
So far, the present Chief Executive Officer of ASCON, Cecilia Umaru- Gayyy, mni, and the College management team have been consolidating on the achievements of the Buhari’s Administration in management training and also in the advancement of education in Nigeria.