A crisis is brewing at the Nigerian agency responsible for sourcing and coordinating foreign investment, the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
A frosty relationship between the executive secretary of the commission, Yewande Sadiku, and the governing council of the commission led by Babangida Nguroje, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, has blown open.
Investigations reveal that the relationship between the council and the executive secretary had gone sour leading to a confrontation between the two sides.
Earlier this year, a member of the governing council, Ali Sani, wrote to the executive secretary questioning the payment of millions of naira each year to herself ”in the name of foreign leave allowance”.
Mr Sani alleged that the executive secretary collected over N40 million for 2017 and 2018.
Ms Sadiku did not say how much she received in foreign leave allowance. But she explained in a response to Mr Sani that her receipt of the allowance was based on a 14-year board-approved practice in the agency and a ministerial approval for increment obtained in 2013.
“I understand that since 2005 when the remuneration package took effect, the foreign leave allowance has been paid to the ES holding office every year,” she wrote in a January 11 response to Mr Sani.
“The payment of the allowances to me in November 2017 and August 2018, following my resumption in November 2016, are therefore not usual.”
She also told PREMIUM TIMES that some of Mr Sani’s claims were untrue.
The awry relationship between the two sides, however, got to a head earlier this month after a video recording surfaced in which the executive secretary criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s approach of securing foreign direct investment.
In the address, which PREMIUM TIMES established took place at a meeting with directors and deputy directors of the commission, Mrs Sadiku gave the example of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who, she said, ”led the way in investment promotion”.
She said the agency’s role in advancing investment in Nigeria enjoyed immense presidential backing in the past.
“You know why? Mr President Olusegun ‘Aremu’ Obasanjo was the one going to tell companies by himself to come and invest in Nigeria,” she said.
Mrs Sadiku explained that aside wooing the investors, ”Mr Obasanjo was giving them assurances to protect them and their investments.”
“It was him himself that will say ‘Obinna, Shettima come and invest in Nigeria and any mosquito that bites you, tell NIPC, they will come and tell me’. And when you tell NIPC mosquito is biting Shettima, you go and tell the president, the president will kill the mosquito.”
In contrast, the executive secretary said ”President Muhammadu Buhari is a different person all together”.
“The presidency we have now, the president we have now is a different person,” she said.
Not long after the recorded comments at the staff meeting, a broadcast in a popular radio programme, Brekete Family, on Human Rights Radio in Abuja, further drew the ire of the governing council and staff of the commission.
In the November 6 radio programme, Mrs Sadiku was praised as a ”reform champion who was facing resistance from her staff that were used to crooked old ways.”
The council saw the broadcast as image laundering stunt for the executive secretary which also portrayed staff and members of the National Assembly in a bad light.
Provoked council, staff
The comments both from Mrs Sadiku and from the radio programme have obviously angered the governing council of the commission.
In a press statement on Monday, Mr Nguroje tongue-lashed Mrs Sadiku.
He alleged that some appointees of government ”were teaming up with opposition in discrediting the government, rather than deliver on the mandates given them”.
To counter Mrs Sadiku’s comment on the leaked video, Mr Nguroje painted a picture of optimism and achievement in Nigeria’s foreign investment drive, saying the NIPC is up to the task.
The staff union, also, wrote a letter to the CEO of the radio station, who also anchored the programme, condemning what they described as unfair and malicious pronouncements on the staff of the agency in the radio programme.
The protest letter was signed by Yusuf Mustapha, chairperson of the union and Emeka Nwachukwu, its secretary.
“We are therefore saying collectively and categorically that we are not crooks, we are not criminals and we are not corrupt. We are a group of patriotic Nigerians who have committed everything to this service without commensurate material benefit to our persons.”
They demanded an apology and retraction from the broadcaster, threatening legal action.
In a message to staff on Wednesday echoing some of the points made by the governing council, the chairman of the union urged the staff to remain steadfast.
“No amount of witchhunt and intimidation can deter the resolve of this great union,” he wrote.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the allegation that the NIPC boss received N40million foreign leave allowance was made by Mr Sani, a board member. The allegation is not contained in any independent document.