Some workers of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), have called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to reappoint the Executive Chairman of the service, Mr Babatinde Fowler, for another term of office. The workers, under the aegis of Concerned Staff of FIRS, made this known in a letter to the President, a copy of which our correspondent got on Sunday. In the letter, the workers accused Fowler of being economical with the truth in some of the reports being doled out detailing the activities and achievements of the service. Also, they accused Fowler of setting the service in the reverse gear instead of positioning it for greater height like his predecessors.
They alleged that prior to August 2015 when Fowler assumed office, the modernisation efforts towards organisational process and structural reforms of FIRS with a view to enhancing effective and efficient tax administration had produced significant verifiable outcomes in many areas.
They listed the areas to include developing a tax reform agenda, enactment/amendment of tax laws, National Tax Policy, articulating a clear direction for the Service and the JTB among others.
Their grouse against Fowler included recruiting workers in manners shrouded in secrecy and not in conformity with laid down rules.
According to them, Fowler’s claim of improved performance was fraught with irregularities.
“With fixing of the fundamentals by building a foundational base that would readily enhance tax revenue collections through the implementation of the tax reform, we experienced a steady increase in tax revenues for the government except for the immaterial decrease in tax revenues which of course were attributed to 2007-2009 global credit crunch/financial meltdown, the performance before Mr. Fowler was growing year-on-year. Contrary to Mr Fowler’s claim that “N5,320 trillion is the highest revenue ever generated by FIRS in history” is misleading and economical with the facts because: in 2012 the set revenue target was N3,635.5 trillion while N5,007.7 trillion was generated, with 137.74% of collection. But the set revenue target in 2018 is N6,747.0 trillion and actual revenue generated stood at N5,320.0 trillion with 78.85%; the amount of N5,007.7 trillion in Dollars in 2012 was $32,150 billion while the amount of N5,320.0 trillion in 2018 stood at $17,385.62 billion. This means FIRS under his watch did not meet the set target, its performance was also poor in Dollar terms in 2018. Below is the tax revenue collection performance from 2000-2018 for further clarification.
“Our collection should continue to grow year-by-year as shown above and not decreasing as highlighted in red which represents FIRS performance under his watch as Executive Chairman. These clarifications are necessary to dispel the huge media propaganda stupendously sponsored with taxpayers’ money in many conventional (electronic and print) platforms all over the country to boost his personal ego. The open secret remains that FIRS has under-performed under his leadership and this could be attributed to its executive incompetence and arrogance in handling tax administration matters”. It must also be emphasised that in 2010 when the general and transparent recruitment exercise was concluded, the ripple effect of the exercise and other initiatives embarked upon produced huge tax revenues as can be seen from the table above for 2010, 2011 and in 2012 when the tax revenues got to all-time high of N5.01trillion at an exchange rate of N155.76. So, it is no longer news that N5trillion revenue target is achievable provided a competent person is appointed as the Executive Chairman of FIRS. Dear Mr. President, there are so many disturbing atrocities perpetrated by Mr. Fowler in FIRS which your attention must have been drawn to but we wish to also draw it to you again, sir. There are convincing evidences already presented to you for further action and others that may be presented to you for further investigations and for his possible prosecution. We strongly advise that these atrocities be made known to the VICE PRESIDENT because it is his name that is being used a shield against investigation and prosecution for abusing his office.
“It must be emphasised that Mr. Fowler’s era in FIRS has unimaginably taken it back to the old dark period of inefficient and ineffective days. Some of which include; Corporate and institutional lies (untrue stories) about FIRS performance being perpetrated by Mr. Fowler. Examples include; N1.5 trillion announced to have been collected as tax revenue in the 1st Quarter, 2019. Whereas the sum of N1.07 trillion was the actual collection for the same period. Another example was that the tax audit cycle was reported to have been reduced from 90 days to 63 days. This is not true as there are many tax audit cases above 48months that are yet to be concluded in various tax audit review offices nationwide. Another lie was the issue of 5000 new taxpayers most of which are enterprises and road side merchants that have little or no contributions to FIRS tax revenue collections. These and many other lies have to be said by the FIRS Chairman with a view to keeping himself or his proxy in office for another term of four (4) years.
“Extravagant weekly spending on concerts and parties in Lagos, Port Harcourt and other major cities within and outside Nigeria. Frivolous donations to organisations while staff entitlements for official engagements would take a long time to settle. This is evident in the investigation currently on-going by EFCC where millions of Naira of Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) were found in the accounts of the staff working directly with Mr. Fowler. FIRS staff are suspecting that the investigation will be compromised because of Fowler’s relationship with the VICE PRESIDENT and the EFCC Chairman. Lack of organisational structure for effective performance. His commitment at ensuring that FIRS does not have a constitutionally recognised board since his appointment is a disservice to the organisation and the country. This was deliberately allowed to happen. Recall that the last time FIRS had a Board was in April 2012. The absence of FIRS board has made Mr. Fowler, a 3-in-1 authorities i.e. the Executive Chairman, the Management and the FIRS Board. This has further fuelled the executive arrogance being displayed by the Executive Chairman of FIRS for lack of checks and balances.
“Restructuring of FIRS organogram to suit his personal aggrandisement. Some audit functions in the area of Oil and Gas, financial institutions, multinationals, telecommunications, constructions, aviation and special audit & investigative cases have been personalised by assigning them to inexperienced acquaintances he brought into the Service as staff and consultants without recourse to the due process. Collapse of a functional regional structure into inactive state coordination while most of the state coordinators are his personal and political friends, he brought inexperienced people to occupy high and strategic positions in FIRS. Outsourcing of core responsibilities of some departments such as Human Capital Management, ICT, Audit functions for personal gains and not for the interest of the Services. Movement of ICT equipment to a private company premises, (Main-one Nigeria) in Lagos through a contract worth over N1.7 billion for the co-location. Note that Executive Chairman has no power to award contract of such magnitude.
“Collapse of structured weekly meetings, OMM & EMM by making himself the sole management/decision maker for FIRS. He calls for meetings at his convenience even without prior notice to abuse, blame, mock and make all sorts of unprofessional and uncomplimentary remarks instead of using the platform to collectively address fundamental issues affecting the progress of the Service. Suspension of tax audit and case investigation functions in various field offices since January, 2016 and the engagement of friends as FIRS consultants to carry out core tax functions of audit, investigations, taxpayers’ registrations and other ancillaries of the Service. Indiscriminate Transfer of senior officers to non-existent offices and/or non-functional training schools nationwide. Continuous employment of new people unilaterally without recourse to established rules, processes and procedures for recruitment exercise. There are no Staffing Needs Assessment carried out before recruiting the new staff. In 2019 alone, over 700 staff have been brought in illegally. Sometimes appointment letters are brought to Mr. Fowler to sign in the VIP waiting lounge at the airport. Duplication and multiplicity of duties and responsibilities have become the order of the day in the Service. 6His verbal pronouncement at any meeting or forum has now become a policy statement.
This is indeed an unfortunate nightmare currently existing in FIRS.” They called for the constitution of a board for the FIRS and investigation of Fowler’s tenure.