‘Concerned’ Staff of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, NIPC, has petitioned the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Richard Adeniyi Adebayo, accusing the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Saratu Umar, of gross incompetence, influence peddling, high-handedness and fraud.
In a petition addressed to the Minister, and copied the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Folasade Yemi-Esan and the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, the aggrieved Staff appealed for the swift intervention of the Minister and other relevant authorities to save the Commission from imminent colapse.
According to the petition, sighted by Summit Post, Mrs Saratu Umar was accused of indulging in brazen disregard for the mandate of the organization, which the aggrieved staff, opined will inevitably impede the realisation of the commission’s lofty objectives.
The petition cited Umar’s refusal to consider pioneer status applications as she merely held only one meeting on the application in the last six months. The executive secretary was also accused of refusal to consider any memo on that in clear violation of the timelines for such incentive and the minister’s directive.
“The pioneer status incentive (PSI) is a tax holiday that grants qualifying industries and products relief from payment of corporate income tax for an initial period of three years, extendable for one or two additional years.
“Many pioneer status applicants have paid repeated visits to NIPC in expected concern over the failure to consider their applications in contravention of the approved timeframes/guidelines and are groaning under the burden of facility commitments occasioned by the delay.”
The petitioners complained that the PSI is hampered by the controversial staff redeployment exercise, embarked upon by Ms Umar. Similarly, the petition revealed that ES had in uttered disregard for laid down rules, posted out the entire staff of the incentives administration unit (that process the PSI).
They acussed Ms Umar of failure to implement the country-specific investment strategy approved by the economic management team.
In calling for urgent intervention, the petition pointed out the failure of Ms Umar to sign international agreements since her return in July. They submitted that all efforts to enter into new agreements that will facilitate attraction of foreign Investment into the country were frustrated by Mrs Saratu Umar.
The Concerned Staff lamented Ms Umar’s failure to give approval for staff of the Commission to attend a fully sponsored West African connect event conference in Ghana held between September 20 and 21 this year.
Also mentioned in the petition is the profligacy by the ES. They cited the wasteful expenditure by the executive secretary, claiming she maintains four exotic cars in her convoy, stalled implementation of the commission’s capital budget and allegedly refused to treat staff application for leave.
The group bemoans the executive secretary’s wrongful and malicious sack of the most senior director in the commission from of NIPC, Emeka Offor, in blatant disregard and disrespect of the circular with Ref. HCSF/428/51/139 and dated June 20, 2016, issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation on the directives of President Buhari.
Offor, it was learnt, was disengaged on November 22, 2022 in very controversial circumstances, an action the executive secretary claims was taken on account of NIPC’s conditions of service, which had never been approved by the Head of Service of the Federation in line with extant regulations.
About four other directors were aslo redeployed under what is considered as vendetta mission of the sitting executive secretary.
The directors affected include Akwada Chukwudi James who was posted from Finance and Administration department to Reform unit; Barrister Patience Okala who was redeployed from her position as director, Legal Services unit to director, department of State Coordination, and Hajja Gana Wakil who was also posted to North East zonal office in Maiduguri.
Some staff of the commission expressed concern over her posting, with some saying that it is even appalling that the senior director was posted to head zonal offices.
Checks by this newspaper showed that there is director at the zonal offices, as the zonal offices are usually headed by a deputy or assistant director in the commission.
The most senior director of the commission who heads the department in charge of the incentive was also posted to a subnational office in violation of the commission’s approved Structure and Schemes of Service.
A director in the commission who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the posting of all staff out of the unit at the same time indicates that no thought was given to the administrative liability that could be caused by lack of institutional memory.
NIPC has also failed to honour a number of international obligations and engagements, which have embarrassing effects on Nigeria’s image.
For example, NIPC failed to play key role in ongoing negotiations of the investment facilitation for development agreement of the WTO, thereby negatively impacting on Nigeria’s chance to make meaningful contributions to the agreement that would soon be sealed.
The Umar-led NIPC, it was further learnt, failed to participate in the 2022 WAIPA Investment Conference held from 12-14 September 2022.
Umar and her team also refused to grant audience to members of the Diplomatic corps, including the Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil and the Brazillian business delegation as well as the Canadian envoy to Nigeria for discussions on bilateral issues.
It was gathered from the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment that failure of NIPC to play its lead technical role has stalled the negotiation of bilateral investment agreements with countries such as Vietnam, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the renegotiation of the investment treaty with Canada despite repeated demands by these countries for negotiation of the agreements.
“This has not only embarrassed the commission but has also set back Nigeria’s quest to attract the much-needed FDI from the listed countries,” some concerned stakeholders of NIPC stated in a petition that obtained by this newspaper.
NIPC also failed to participate in several other national and international commitments, including those fully sponsored by ECOWAS.
For instance, it failed to honour invitations to make country presentations to market Nigeria to potential investors at the business and investment forums such as Nigeria – Italy Business and Investment Forum as well as Nigeria – Egypt Business and Investment Forum, organized by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
It was also gathered that Nigeria missed out on fully funded conferences like the Nigeria–UK Business Forum and Nigeria –Canada Business Forum where it was supposed to play an active role.
However, all efforts to get the executive secretary, Saratu Umar’s side of the story, proved abortive as she ignored calls and Short Messaging Service (SMS) and WhatsApp message.
Recalled that in 2014 Saratu Umar was sacked by Jonathan Administration for the same offences.
She is alleged to be banking on a “strong force” in Government from kwara state to perpetrate these inimical acts boasting that nobody can sack her this time.
Umar was sacked as the chief executive of NIPC in 2015 after a committee set up by the then minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga, found series of administrative lapses, reported highhandedness and procedural gaps against her management team.
In his letter to then President Goodluck Jonathan, Aganga said Saratu failed to exhibit appropriate or any commendable competence in dealing with the administration of the NIPC.