President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday approved the appointment of Hajiya Saratu Altine Umar as the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) for a fresh term of five years, a position she was first appointed to in July, 2014, by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Disclosing the reappointment, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said, “In the short period of her service as executive secretary, she transformed the NIPC into a world-class investment agency and minimised revenue leakages; saving the country N500 billion for which she received a commendation from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).”
Saratu was sacked in 2015 barely two weeks after staff of NIPC urged the then President Jonathan to remove her. The NIPC workers on April 21, 2015, locked her out over her adopting an alien management style contrary to civil service rules.
They alleged that she spent N35 million to renovate and furnish her office while ignoring staff welfare and working conditions. They also accused her of highhandedness and intimidation, allegedly issuing between 50 and 150 queries to staff in one day.
They also alleged that Saratu forced directors who had served for four years to reapply for the same post despite the civil service rule that allows them to be on the job for eight years.
They said the commission which ought to be a one-stop investment centre was practically dead and that files containing applications from investors, both within and outside the country, had piled up in her office without her attending to them.
They also accused Saratu of hiring five foreign consultants with no value addition for services comprising corporate restructuring, imaging, HR, ICT and accounting that were readily available in Nigeria.
The staff further alleged that she collected N13m annual leave grant for “her husband and four children” when she was alleged to be a single mother with two children.
But Saratu said her accusers were only aggrieved because she brought innovations to the agency they could not cope with. The then NIPC head said the staff lacked work efficiency while denying the office renovation saga.
She said, “NIPC has not been as effective as it should have. We are trying to have a strong institution that would promote and coordinate all investments in the Nigerian business climate. We also discovered some financial irregularities and we are trying to manage that. The commission is the first point of contact to the country and we cannot afford to run the place anyhow.”
A panel was raised to probe the complaints before she was relieved of her office and replaced with Mrs Uju Aisha Hassan-Baba.
Since the exit of Mustapha Bello in 2014 to pursue a governorship ambition in Niger State, NIPC has had four female chief executives in permanent and acting capacities; with each having a running battle with the staff.
Reacting to the reappointment of Saratu, a senior management staff of NIPC said, “This is someone who was also sacked from the services of NEXIM under questionable circumstances as an assistant director, and her first stint at the NIPC was marred by controversy leading to a sack by the president. Is there no one else who can supervise this agency?”
The Chairman of the local chapter of the Senior Staff Association, Yusuf Mustapha, told Daily Trust that, “Personally, I know that very few people get a second chance in life. It’s like a special favour from God. If you misuse that opportunity, then God will fight the fight himself for the staff.”