The indefinite industrial action by workers of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), which began on Wednesday continued on Thursday, with the normal official business at the headquarters of the agency still grounded.
The protesting workers, who barricaded the entrance to the office complex located at Maitama, Abuja, accused the Executive Secretary, Yewande Sadiku, of “executive felonies”.
The latest action is obviously a rehash of a similar action in July 2020, when the same workers staged a protest march against Ms Sadiku over alleged spending of over N400 million in three years on foreign trips.
On Wednesday, the protesting members of the workers’ union wielding various placards with inscription “Yewande Must Go” asked the government to intervene and resolve the issues their grievances.
The chairman Association of Senior Civil of Nigeria, NIPC unit, Yusuf Mustafa, said the protest would continue till the government meets their demands.
Protesting Workers’ grievances
Mr Mustafa listed some of the grievance of the union, most of them directly against Ms Sadiku, to included alleged wrongful dismissal of its members; implementation by NIPC management of the July 17, 2020 agreement in breach, and frustration of an inter-ministerial committee set-up to resolve myriads of establishment issues in the agency; the Executive Secretary violating corporate governance code by undertaking unauthorized foreign travels that yielded no returns on public funds, and collecting foreign leave allowance promptly for three years outside the terms of engagement stated in her appointment.
Other grievances include refusing to obey the Minister of Labour and Employment directive on the issues; deliberate under-declaration of vacancies during the 2020 promotion period, and preferential use of Annual Performance Evaluation Report (APER) to favour selected staff close to the management against others; use of personal discretion and impunity in running the affairs of the Commission and usurping the functions/duties of desk officers thereby killing staff initiatives and moral.
The workers also complained about the NIPC management tampering with the result of the 2020 computer-based test (CBT) promotion exercise; manifest ineptitude in understanding the mandate of investment promotion; double standards and deliberate tardiness on all issues of staff welfare; know it all attitude that results in woeful failure and wastage of public funds; approving budgets partially implemented since 2018 due to her use of personal discretion and impunity, terrible staff working environment, and refusal to pay medical assistance to staff stricken by fatal illness.
Also, they accused the NIPC management of poor understanding of public sector financial management leading to poor implementation of budgetary provisions; lack of administrative acumen leading to dispute in the courtroom on matters that can be resolved in the board room; breach of Public Procurement Act and Independent Corrupt Practice and other related offence Commission (ICPC) Act in the procurement process by issuing a contract to an unregistered company that supplied sub-standard computer consumables.
Consequently, Mr Mustafa said the consensus of the union include the immediate sack and prosecution of the Executive Secretary by the government; a directive that all staff promotion issues, including 2018, be immediately resolved; directive that all outstanding arrears and payment of severance benefits be paid immediately; directive that all staff sacked in the last four years be reversed, and immediate renovation/rehabilitation of Zonal Offices and Headquarters.
NIPC management reacts, calls for dialogue
In its reaction to the issues by the workers, the NIPC management said it noted with great concern, the unexpected action by the workers led by the leadership of the NIPC Chapter of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN).
Describing as unfounded most of the allegations against the person of the Executive Secretary, the NIPC said it was regrettable that despite the resolution of virtually all the issues and continuous engagement with the Union and other stakeholders, the workers went ahead to issue four ultimatums in the past six months, over issues that have either been resolved or never been brought to its attention.
“Most of the current allegations were also made by the Union when it unexpectedly locked the NIPC gates in July 2020,” the NIPC said.
Following that incident, it said the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment held several meetings with representatives of the NIPC Governing Council, NIPC Management, the Union, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and other stakeholder MDAs resulting in the resolution of the issues, most of which have been implemented, while others are at various stages of implementation.
On the 2020 promotion exercise, the NIPC said the promotion examination was transparently conducted by the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN) with the full participation of relevant MDAs, including the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, the Federal Civil Service Commission and Federal Character Commission.
The Commission said the promotion letters for Officers outside the management cadre were released by the Management on February 23, 2021, while those of staff in the Management cadre are still awaiting NIPC Council approval in line with extant rules.
Under Ms Sadiku’s leadership, the NIPC said in the last four years the Commission has achieved a lot, including the production of the “Book of States” to highlight investment prospects and competitive advantages of every State in Nigeria, to better showcase sub-national investment opportunities; the publication of the “Compendium of Investment Incentives in Nigeria”, and initiation and implementation of the reform of Nigeria’s International Investment Agreements regime to attract responsible, inclusive, balanced and sustainable investments.
This, the Commission said, resulted in the negotiation of the Nigeria Morocco Bilateral Investment Treaty that was featured by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as an exemplary model in the 2017 World Investment Report.
The NIPC listed other achievements to include the successful hosting of the Direct Investors’ Summit, Nigeria in 2018; introduction of the Nigerian Investment Certification Programme for States, to prepare states for investor readiness; development of a country-specific investment strategy to better target investment promotion; publication of the report of investment announcements quarterly and annually, and production of the iGuide to provide critical investment information.
Other achievements include creation of the one-stop investment centre (OSIC) Lab to resolve complaints by investors and promote investment retention; reforms to the administration of the Pioneer Status Incentive; proactive publication of the quarterly and annual records of Pioneer Status Incentive applications processed;
xii. Ongoing development of the Single Window Investors Portal to facilitate online profiling of investment projects, online processing of Pioneer Status applications, online provision of services by OSIC and other investor engagements; completion of the backlog of outstanding audit of NIPC Financial Statements (2014 – 2019); publication of the annual reports of NIPC’s activities (2016 -2019); proactive publication of the mandatory information required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) including financial, procurement, legal and staff records, and receipt of award for transparency and compliance with a second position ranking at the National FOI Award for 2019 and 2020, up from 90th position in 2016.
Apart from always staff welfare and development a priority, the NIPC said major welfare improvements were initiated under Ms Sadiku without being prompted, included Staff Housing Loan Scheme, Post Service Benefit Scheme and Peculiar Allowance.
Despite the disruption of the Commission’s business and the activities of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Secretariat at the NIPC Head Office, NIPC said it remained fully committed to dialogue with the Union to resolve their concerns and ensure the workers are motivated to achieve the goals and objectives of the Commission’s establishment.