A group, Concerned Staff of FIRS, have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the atrocities and infractions allegedly perpetrated by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler.
In an open letter, the group advised President Buhari not to re-appoint Fowler because the FIRS boss had “unimaginably taken it back to the old dark period of inefficient and ineffective days.”
It also recommended that the activities of Fowler from the day he was appointed up to his last day in office should be investigated and brought to book for all infractions he had committed while holding sway as the Executive Chairman of FIRS.
The group wrote, “One would have expected that his appointment would improve the hallmark achievements he met on the ground but the reverse is the case. The first seven months of his tenure as the chief executive of FIRS has led to a series of abuse/violation of laid down processes and procedures, a flagrant disobedience to established rules, policies and laws, a total disrespect to the leadership in various coordinating groups, departments and other positions within the service and a total collapse of the entire system.
“The noble and professional institution (FIRS) which was left behind by his predecessors has completely been politicized and has now become a Mecca or Jerusalem of some sorts to politicians and parasitic contractors.
“This rascality was further heightened by the claim that the current Vice President is his (Fowler's) friend and a school mate and for this reason, he could abuse the due process and get away with it. In saner climes, his relationship with the vice president must propel him to respect all known processes, procedures, laws and constituted authority while discharging his duties and responsibilities as a public officer who would be held accountable for his actions and inactions. Sadly enough, the reverse is the case in FIRS.”
Other allegations against the FIRS boss included extravagant weekly spending on concerts and parties in Lagos, Port Harcourt and other major cities within and outside Nigeria, frivolous donations to organizations while staff entitlements for official engagements would take a long time to settle.
The FIRS staff claimed that Fowler had got away with what it termed corporate and institutional lies about FIRS performance, adding that while Fowler announced N1.5 trillion as tax revenue in the first quarter of the year, the sum of N1.07 trillion was the actual collection for the same period.
The letter partly reads, “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 is convincing evidence 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 as a shield against investigation and prosecution for abusing his office.
“Others are the 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. There is also the 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 the recruitment exercise. There is no Staffing Needs Assessment carried out before recruiting the new staff. In 2019 alone, over 700 staff were brought in illegally.Sometimes appointment letters are brought to Mr Fowler to sign in the VIP lounge at the airport.
“Duplication and multiplicity of duties and responsibilities have become the order of the day in the Service. His verbal pronouncement at any meeting or forum has now become a policy statement. This is indeed an unfortunate nightmare currently existing in FIRS.
“Corruption has also become a phenomenon, a culture and a norm using all kinds of fronts in receiving gratifications from tax refund cases, contract awards, lien-on-accounts placement and even in employment.”
The group, therefore, advised President Buhari not to reappoint Fowler while adding that the composition of FIRS Board with quality minds and other institutional members are very important to drive the strategic implementation and values of the Nigerian tax system.