In 2015, former President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Saratu Umar as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). The sack followed a recommendation by a ministerial panel that indicted her for several offences, including lack of administrative competence, power-play and ineptitude.
In May of that year, angry NIPC workers shut down operations to protest against the poor leadership of Mrs Umar. They demanded her immediate sack from the commission over her “gross incompetence, high-handedness, staff intimidation” and her alleged divide-and-rule policies.
At the time, Mrs Umar had only spent about one year as the executive officer of the agency but the NIPC workers said they were tired of her administration and wanted her removed.
According to a statement by the staff union chairman of NIPC, Ahmad Ghondi, “Mrs Umar violated so many provisions of the Procurement Act in awarding contracts to her cronies and had been running the commission as a private entity.” She was also accused of several misappropriations, including approving a contract of N35 million for refurnishing her office.
Worried about the agitations of the staff, Olusegun Aganga, then Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment, set up an investigative panel, led by one Abdulkadir Musa, then a permanent secretary, to probe the series of allegations against Mrs Umar.
A walk back to 2015 — under Jonathan
In April 2015, the Musa-led committee probed Mrs Umar, as recommended by the minister, on several offences, including “indiscriminate mass queries issued to staff; illegal termination of appointments; non-payment of overtime to deserving staff; punitive posting; not attending to files/mail timeously; operational funds”.
Mr Musa and his panel members summoned all “concerned parties” over the grievances listed against Mrs Umar and the management of the NIPC generally.
Upon her assumption of duty as the Executive Secretary of the NIPC, Mrs Umar issued a series of queries to staff for late coming and absenteeism and failure to attend a routine jogging exercise. But the committee found these queries unjustifiable because “the clocking-in and out were found to be defective.” The committee also ruled against issuing queries to staff for not attending jogging exercises, saying it was meant to be a voluntary activity.
The committee also found the sack of two NIPC directors by Mrs Umar undeserving, noting that the woman violated the regulations of the Federal Service Commission in determining the dismissal of the two officers. The investigative panellists found her guilty of serial posting of some staff cadre, suspected to be loyal to her, to zonal offices “without any specific assignment or portfolio.” Mrs Umar, the committee found, also failed to conduct promotional exams, denying deserving staff of administrative growth at the expense of the commission’s progress.
“Some of these officers neither had sitting space, tables nor chairs,” the committee stated. “The case of the current NIPC Union unit Chairman was cited as an example.”
Lack of governance structure and other matters
Again, during her administration as the executive secretary of NIPC back in 2015, the investigative panel found that Mrs Umar made unilateral decisions, having failed to carry directors of the commission along on several occasions. The committee said Mrs Umar appeared to have run the commission alone as evidenced by her “failure to convene meetings of the NIPC council where critical matters of general administrations are tabled and determined.”
“The committee observed from the testimony of directors who appeared before it and documents presented that the commission has a weak and divided management structure with the ES running with essentially only one director (acting director of finance and administration) while the other six directors were not being carried along,” the investigative panel stated.