President Muhammadu Buhari has terminated the appointment of Saratu Umar as the executive secretary/chief executive officer of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), with immediate effect.
Her dismissal from office was contained in a statement issued by Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina.
In a directive to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, the President also mandated the most senior director in the Commission to immediately take over in the interim.
Umar had been sacked as the chief executive of NIPC in 2015 after a committee set up by then Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga found a series of administrative lapses, highhandedness and procedural gaps against her management team.
In his letter to then President Goodluck Jonathan, minister Aganga said Saratu had not exhibited appropriate or any commendable competence in dealing with the administration of the NIPC.
However, in July 2022, Buhari, through a statement signed by his media aide, approved the appointment of Saratu Umar as the executive secretary/chief executive of NIPC.
Barely nine months after her assumption of office as NIPC executive secretary, similar concerns that led to her sack by the Jonathan administration were raised.
The last nine months of Mrs Umar’s watch over NIPC has been fraught with fraud, controversy and vendetta. She had come under heavy criticisms for indulging in acts that are inimical to the realisation of the commission’s mandate.
Umar refused to consider pioneer status applications as she merely held only meeting on the application since she assumed office, while also failing to consider any memo on that, in clear violation of the timelines for such incentive as per the minister’s directive.
The pioneer status incentive (PSI) is a tax holiday that grants qualifying industries and products relief from payment of corporate income tax for an initial period of three years, extendable for one or two additional years. The intention is to encourage the flourishing of businesses.
Other actions of Umar that made her period in office a wasteful expenditure for the federal government include the fact that she maintained four exotic cars in her convoy, stalled implementation of the commission’s capital budget and allegedly refused to treat staff application for leave.
When she resumed office in July following her reappointment having served and was sacked in 2015 as the chief executive of NIPC, Saratu Umar promised to actualise the commission’s mandate of positioning the country as a top destination for global private, a promised she blatantly failed to keep.
Instead of focusing on her mandate as chief investment promoter for the federal government, Umar was neck deep in an embarrassing quarrel with directors in her office.
The directors had alleged a plot by Umar to illegally dismiss five among them to achieve personal satisfaction. The whole directors: Gana Wakil, John Oseji, James Akwada, Abubakar Yerima, Patience Okala and MUmar Bello, in a letter to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, said the ES has now issued letters of disengagement to five of the commission’s six directors on account of Clause 3.6.7 of the NIPC conditions of service on the appointment of directors.
The executive secretary neither denied nor confirmed the allegations.
Subsequently, the minister recommended for her sack, listing her offences.
“Saratu Umar was dismissed as executive secretary NIPC by former President Goodluck Jonathan on account of incompetence, high handedness and ineptitude.
“She was also dismissed from NEXIM Bank on similar grounds. She has shown gross incapacity to serve as Chief Executive of NIPC:
“NIPC is not attending to investors or even the international community of investors. FDI inflow into NIgeria is dwindling. Pioneer Status Incentive applications are not being treated. Negotiation of Bilateral Investment Treaties between Nigeria and other countries.
“She is resistant to and undermines authority. She does not recognize or respect any authority above her.
“She has encouraged a breakdown of law and order in NIPC to the extent that she directed five staff to defy the Minister’s instructions for them to appear before the inter-ministerial committee that investigated complaints against her. She failed to honour the committee’s invitation and ensured that 5 of her cronies also refused to appear.
“She was found to have been practicing virement and incurring plenty of extra-budgetary expenditure.
“On another development, ICPC is currently investigating a plethora of financial infractions against her including additional payment of N6,109,000 to one Yusuf Mustapha, the defunct union chairman among other over N54million extra-budgetary expenditure in December 2022.
“Investigations of further N155 million extra-budgetary expenditure since January 2023 is also ongoing,” the minister stated.
The commission has already invited eight officers of the commission to help with its investigations. The Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) has asked the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo to investigate alleged corrupt financial transactions and violation of both the public procurement Act and the financial regulations of Nigeria by the Executive Secretary of the commission, Ms Saratu Umar.
In separate letters to ICPC and the minister, chairman of the ACTU unit, Uchenna Gwendoline Okonkwo alleged that Ms Umar illegally approved the payment of millions of naira to individuals’ accounts between 29th and 31st of December 2022 without recourse to rule of public finance management.