Angry workers shut down NIPC, demand Secretary’s sack

FILE PHOTO: Heavy security cordon was thrown around the capital

Angry workers of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission on Tuesday shut down official business in protest of the continued stay in office of Saratu Umar, the Executive Secretary of the commission.

The workers, who demanded Ms. Umar’s immediate sack, from the investment promotion agency, accusing her of “gross incompetence, high handedness and staff intimidation”, particularly her alleged nsensitivity to staff welfare and improved working conditions.

Other allegations against the Executive Secretary included mismanagement of the agency and her divide and rule policy, by selectively attending to her loyalists, while denying others, including senior management staff, their entitlements.

The workers said they were not ready to continue to put up with Ms. Umar’s management style as she queried about 57 of the about 300-strong workforce last week without following due process.

Besides, they claimed the zonal offices have been starved of operational impress for months, while Mrs. Umar spent over N35 million to furnish her office.

As early as 9 a.m., the workers barricaded the main entrance to the Commission, opting to stay outside with placards conveying their grievances.

“Saratu Umar must go today”, “Self-styled one-man management”, “NIPC without management/Council”, “Saratu is incompetent, high-handed”, “No impress to zonal office for eight months” were some of the inscriptions on the placards displayed by the workers.

Some of the workers said since May 2014 when the Executive Secretary assumed office, no investor, whether local or foreign, has come into the country with any fresh proposal for investment, as the One-stop Investment Centre is practically dead.

The Centre is supposed to serve as an investment facilitation platform for all government agencies to provide information, documents and approvals statutorily required by prospective investors in Nigeria.

One of the protesting workers, who did not want his identity revealed, for fear of victimization, said since Ms. Umar took over office almost a year ago, files have accumulated on her desk for months without attention.

“She has no idea on how to run the place. Applications from investors, both within and outside the country, have been piling up,” the workers said.

“Memos coming in from the Ministry and other government agencies are not treated since she took over in May. No new investor has visited the country to do business in the last one year, because the One-stop investment centre that should provide all the information is practically dead.”

The workers also accused Ms. Umar of hiring five foreign consultants under her transformation agenda in the Commission, without their adding any value to the investment agency’s overall agenda.

They listed the consulting firms as those in charge of corporate restructuring; corporate image development; ICT; human capital development; public relations and communications as well as accounting and financial discipline.
“In spite of not doing any work, nor turning in any report, they (consultants) are siphoning billions in fees,” the workers alleged.

Again, they said rather than carry out government’s directive that all its agencies and parastatals remit their internally generated revenues to the Central Bank of Nigeria latest by February 28, 2015, Ms. Umar had diverted funds from the Commission to an unnamed account in UBA.

For hours during the protest, Ms. Umar rebuffed overtures by reporters to speak and give her own side of the story, claiming to be in a meeting with the workers unions. She was still not willing to speak with reporters at the end of the meeting.

But the General Secretary, Association of Senior Civil Servants Association of Nigeria, Federal Capital Territory Chapter, Isaac Ojeh, who addressed reporters, said the embattled Executive Secretary had agreed to withdraw the 57 queries issued to staff, as they did not conform to due process.

Other resolutions arrived at during the meeting, Mr. Ojeh said, included the decision to relax the policy on corporate dress code for all workers, while all zonal offices would be reimbursed their expenses once they submit vouchers.

In addition, the zonal offices would henceforth be entitled to N200,000 monthly impress approved since March, while toilet rooms now converted to stockpile untreated files are to be cleared and refurbished.
Mr. Ojeh said the Executive Secretary denied “muscling management” and running a “one-man show”.

Ms. Umar claimed that she was handicapped to take important management decisions, particularly on staff welfare, because the commission has no Board Chairman.

The General Secretary of the workers” union, Shetima Mohammed, said the protest would continue on Wednesday, as most of their grievances were not met.

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