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Published: August 16, 2016

The British Council in Nigeria has introduced a new system of risk assessment and management to safeguard the extensive education and cultural programmes it runs throughout the country. International security specialist, Pilgrims Group Limited, has played a key role in helping the organisation continue to operate smoothly in a country with widely publicised security challenges. The company has helped design and implement a system of security and associated logistics which allows the client to maintain its programme in the face of heightened threats, including those from groups with extreme criminal, political or religious motivation.

Working with the British High Commission to further the UK’s strong economic and cultural links with Nigeria, the British Council supports the Nigerian Government by working with schools, running examinations and broadening cultural links between the two countries. A significant part of its role is to continue its planned activities while managing higher levels of potential risk. Consequently, it requires a more tailored method of risk evaluation and management than that required, for example, by business visitors who, while rightly relying on the valuable advice offered by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, might be in a position to change their plans or meeting venues at short notice.

Pilgrims consultants have worked with the British Council over the last year to evaluate how the organisation works with local people, how it can draw on the support of MOPOL, Nigeria’s Mobile Police Force, and where security may need extra logistical support to make sure a school examination or other activity goes ahead in a part of the country potentially at risk from hostilities.

“We’ve provided consultancy to the British Council for just over a year and are contracted to continue the project in a number of phases designed to deliver a fully working and tested system toward the end of 2016,” says Richard Lovell-Knight, Pilgrims Director of Risk and Information Services. “The goal has been to construct a revised model of security resilience and crisis management that allows the British Council to assess and manage its own risk, but that maintains its strong and crucial links to the British High Commission’s own assessment process. Alongside the British Council’s security team we have also proposed an automated risk assessment methodology, with the aim of providing fast and accurate security and continuity solutions for their activities.”

As part of the development process, Pilgrims permanent teams in Nigeria have provided security and administrative support to the project, including journey management, escorted transport and communications. These services are run from the company’s offices in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt and have been a logical extension of the guarding protection service it already provides the British High Commission throughout the country, including (where the risk assessments require) armed MOPOL officers and armoured vehicles.

“The system has been developed with the key stakeholders, including the British High Commission, the British Council Head Office managements in Nigeria and London, and those of our client’s staff on the ground charged with making this work from a security and logistics perspective,” says Lovell-Knight. He adds that many overseas businesses with operations in Nigeria may consider working in a similar way. “Stopping business is the last thing any organisation wants to do, so we have to find forward-thinking solutions while fully incorporating the assessment work and advice of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Because of our long term presence in Nigeria and our experience in providing consultancy and operational support around the world, we are well placed to create sound and secure structures that allow businesses to continue.”

Simon Ellis, British Council’s Head of Crisis Management, says the system has already produced tangible results, including a four-fold increase in visitors received in Nigeria without incident in 2015/16 and an increase in value for money for exams held in Nigeria’s more northern states (where security risks are higher), compared to those held in the capital, Abuja. “The results have been impressive,” he says. “Journey management and travel risk assessments that take place before every planned visit to a high risk area have made it much easier for staff to travel to exams for spot checks, meetings and other activities. This has contributed to quality improvement.”