On Thursday evening, the public learned that President Muhammadu Buhari has removed Saratu Umar from her position as Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
Although Femi Adesina, the spokesperson for Mr Buhari did not disclose the reasons for her dismissal, he stated that the most senior director would temporarily take over the commission’s leadership.
Many were surprised by the sudden removal of such a crucial figure in the government, particularly towards the end of Mr Buhari’s administration. However, findings by POLITICS NIGERIA reveals that this is not the first time Mrs Umar has been dismissed for her actions in such a time.
Appointed and dismissed by Jonathan
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had first appointed Mrs Umar as the head of the Commission in 2014.
In May of the following year, NIPC employees protested against Mrs Umar’s poor leadership, accusing her of gross incompetence, high-handedness, staff intimidation, and implementing divide-and-rule policies.
Concerned about the staff’s complaints, the Minister of Trade and Investment at the time, Olusegun Aganga, set up an investigative panel to probe the allegations against Mrs Umar.
In April 2015, the committee investigated several charges against Mrs Umar, including indiscriminate mass queries, illegal termination of appointments, non-payment of overtime, and punitive posting. The committee also found that Mrs Umar violated the regulations of the Federal Service Commission when dismissing two NIPC directors.
Following the protests and industrial actions by NIPC staff, Mr Aganga informed Mr Jonathan that he would set up a committee to investigate Mrs Umar’s allegations on 8 May 2015. Mr Aganga also stated that the issues could have been resolved internally if Mrs Umar had understood the Public Service Rules and Regulations and human management.
“I am, therefore, with regret, compelled to recommend that given the circumstances especially the importance of this institution in Nigeria’s drive to attract foreign investment, Your Excellency consider assigning as a new Executive Secretary, a person of suitable competence, seniority and focus befitting our national agenda,” Mr Aganga said, recommending Mrs Umar’s sack that year.
Based on the recommendations of the NIPC investigative committee, Mr Aganga’s submission, and the staff’s complaints, Mr Jonathan dismissed Mrs Umar and appointed Aisha Hassan-Baba as the CEO of the agency.
The second arrival and dismissal
On July 5th, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari reappointed Mrs. Umar as the head of the NIPC, seven years after her initial dismissal.
However, her return was met with shock by staff members, who claim that she became even more abusive and corrupt than before. In fact, a few months after her reappointment, the ICPC classified the NIPC as a “high corruption risk institution.”
After her return, there were complaints from staff members about her abusive management style and her failure to perform her official duties. Furthermore, in January 2022, the chairman of the ACTU wrote a petition against her for engaging in corrupt financial transactions and violating the Public Procurement Act and Financial Regulations of Nigeria.
In November of the same year, Mrs. Umar maliciously sacked a senior director of the commission, causing controversy the more within the institution. And yet again in December, there were also allegations of fraudulent transactions made under her watch.
Possibly plagued with complaints of her, in March 2023, the Ministry of Trade and Investment recommended to President Buhari that Mrs. Umar be dismissed due to gross incompetence, ineptitude, and poor management of the NIPC.
The minister cited Mrs. Umar’s neglect of both foreign and local investors, her stalling of pioneer status incentive applications, and her refusal to participate in the negotiation of bilateral investment treaties between Nigeria and other countries.
The minister also mentioned Mrs. Umar’s administrative atrocities, including the indiscriminate sacking of directors, making unilateral decisions, neglecting critical official duties, creating disaffection among staff, and turning the government agency into a toxic workplace.
Ultimately, the Nigerian president acted on the minister’s recommendation and terminated Mrs. Umar’s appointment as the head of the NIPC yesterday.