When NIPC Staff Protested Mismanagement | Independent Newspapers Limited
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When NIPC Staff Protested Mismanagement

Posted: May 4, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chibuzor Emejor Abuja

Passers-by and workers from other  sister government agencies were thrown into confusion and consternation at  the headquarters of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) recently, when the aggrieved workers of the Commission under the aegis of under the aegis of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, (ASCSN) barricaded their gate and put it under lock and key.

Staff of NIPC protesting alleged mismanagement of the commission

Staff of NIPC protesting alleged mismanagement of the commission

The workers, our Daily Independent reliably gathered had converged at the gates of the Commission as early as 5am on Tuesday April 21, to carry out a peaceful protest in their headquarters located at Plot 422 Aguiyi Ironsi Street, Maitama, Abuja.

What were their grievances many passers-by, on-lookers and other workers were wondering? Some protesting staff of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, (NIPC) who later spoke to newsmen were calling for the immediate sack of their Executive Secretary, Mrs. Saratu Umar , over allegations of corruption, high-handedness and indifference to staff welfare.

To drive home their message, the aggrieved workers, carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Open abuse of staff of all cadres”, “Incurring unnecessary expenditure on Internally Generated Revenue”, “Executive insolence without bounds”, “Harassing staff with threats of dismissal”, “Indiscriminate and unguided transfer”, “Saratu, go back to your AGM post in NEXIM”, “Indiscriminate queries to all cadres of staff”, among others.

Speaking to newsmen during the protest, the Chairman of ASCSN in the commission, Ahmad Isah Ghondi complained of unpaid allowances and harassment of staff with queries and transfers without explanations by the Executive Secretary. Ghondi noted that several efforts and attempts by the Association to resolve the matter amicably with the management under the Executive Secretary’s leadership have proved abortive.

He further accused NIPC management of spending a whooping sum of N35million to furnish the Executive Secretary’s office and another N7.4million on consultancy for media interaction with stakeholders in Lagos while the staff were languishing in penury due to the insensitivity of the management to staff welfare.

Speaking on the attitude of the NIPC boss, Ghondi said “All our efforts to meet with the Executive Secretary to resolve these issues amicably always were met with brick wall. The management has issued over 150 queries to staff, while about 600 files are lying on her table unattended to since November 2014.

“Nothing is working again in the commission. The board that is supposed to meet eight times in a year hardly meets again and we even heard the board chairman has resigned in annoyance. The woman (Executive Secretary) always uses fowl language on the Directors”, he alleged.

In a related development, the National Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (NAIPA) in a statement after the protest decried the deteriorating situation in NIPC since Umar assumed office.

NAIPA, in a press release made available to newsmen, alleged that the Executive Secretary does not have the capacity to lead the Commission, as she has been having difficulty in effectively dealing with investors as well as staff of the Commission.

The statement issued by the Association’s Secretary, Adesoji Adesugba, called on the Federal Government to ask the Executive Secretary to proceed on leave for thorough investigations of her activities in office.

According to Adesugba, “NAIPA is worried that NIPC, which before now had been a vibrant agency, has been brought down to its knees from its previous enviable position as a recipient of National and International accolades. We are therefore not surprised that the entire staff of the organisation is insisting she leaves the organisation before more damage is done to its reputation.

“NAIPA’s mandate includes among other things, to ensure the effective discharge of responsibilities of all IPAs in Nigeria. It is therefore catastrophic that the current situation is playing out in NIPC.”

He added, “What is also worrisome is the negative effect such a situation is having on intending foreign investors wishing to come to Nigeria.

“The current Executive Secretary of the NIPC who had previously been sacked from NEXIM Bank on grounds of incompetence, low performance and insubordination definitely does not have the capacity to lead such an important organisation like the NIPC. Various Stakeholders can attest to the fact that NIPC has performed much below average since her appointment. Definitely, the organisation is at its lowest ebb since 1999 when it commenced operations. It is also apparent that Saratu Umar has no capacity to run an organisation such as the NIPC.”

Also, the Directors of the Commission were not left out in this squabble and loggerheads. They were angry over the allegation made by Saratu Umar that the Directors were indicted in an audit report undertaken in the Commission. According to their spokesman who pleaded anonymity because they are civil servants, he described their indictment by non-existent audit report as “laughable and unthinkable.”

They denied the existence of such audit report, challenging the Executive Secretary to publish it. The Directors also denied the accusation that they were behind the protest at the headquarters of the agency, vowing that they would not allow anybody to intimidate them with false allegations.

According their spokesman,” the directors have over the years worked assiduously to bring the NIPC to an enviable height and as such, would not allow their integrity to be undermined by the Executive Secretary after the various roles they have played in re-positioning the Commission.

They also alleged that they had tried severally in the past to resolve the contending issues as management staff but instead of giving everyone a level playing field, the Executive Secretary has been running the Commission “as a one-man show”.

They further alleged that NIPC boss had recently collected N13million annual leave grant for her husband and four children, when it is obvious that she is a single mother with only two children.

In a media briefing a day after the staff protest, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, NIPC, Mrs. Saratu Umar , said that the protest by some workers of the Commission  was motivated by her zero tolerance to corruption.

Umar denied the allegation that she spent N35million to furnish her office, saying the protesters were incited by some indicted directors following the audit of the Commission’s account books.

According to her, “I have not renovated the office. My office is still the way I met it when I assumed duty. I have not changed anything; anybody can walk in and see for himself”.

“I am still studying the situation on ground. I felt there were pressing issues that needed attention, so I did not spend any N35million furnishing my office. That you can confirm. Repositioning the agency for optimal service delivery is my priority but those who are used to the old ways of doing things are the ones misinforming the staff.”

She added, “I must tell you that the auditing of the NIPC’s accounts revealed the level of corruption by some of the Directors and I see this protest as a distraction. We cannot continue with what I met on ground”.

Commenting on the reason she has sidelined some of the Directors since assumption of office, the NIPC boss said “NIPC is a mirror of the country and it needs effective and efficient staff to achieve its mandate”

She further explained that the Commission was working on a five-year strategic plan in addition to developing a national coordination and promotion framework to reposition itself as a top investment promotion agency. She also added that the management was looking at the possibility of increasing the workers’ salaries since the NIPC is generating internal revenue.

Umar, who expressed shock over the continued protest which lasted for two days said, “We went through a wide range of issues that were raised by the union and we agreed that a communiqué would be issued after both parties must have signed”.

When the final communiqué was brought for me to sign, I looked at it and said that I think the communiqué should be made more explicit so that there won’t be any room for speculation. For instance, on the issue of overtime allowance, it was agreed that eligible staff can now apply and I said that if you put it that way, it will give the impression that they applied and were refused; so I said they should write that on the issue of overtime, no application was previously received and that going forward, any eligible staff can apply.