Few days after his removal, is the immediate past Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, about to be hounded by anti-graft agencies?
Fowler, who was removed last week by President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly been mentioned in an alleged misappropriation of N40 billion in the presidency.
However, the presidency is said to have ordered a full-scale investigation into how the money was spent with the aim of bringing the culprits to book.
PRNigeria reports that the fund was purportedly used for the 2019 election campaign and this did not sit well with those at the seat of power.
While Fowler is said to be outrightly involved in the matter, top officials in the presidency are said to be angry and unsatisfied with his explanations on how the fund was shared and vowed to punish other collaborators including a powerful figure in the presidency.
Also reportedly connected to the N40 billion sharing bazaar is an influential and powerful political gladiator in the Southwest who was said to have received a “paltry” N3 billion which is less than 10 percent of the campaign fund. Already, some of the top management staff of FIRS have been arrested and are being interrogated on corruption allegations by the anti-graft agencies.
“Some senior FIRS staff, about nine of them who were arrested in connection with the money are being interrogated by an anti-corruption agency. Some are accused of being involved in a multi-billion naira fraudulent actions and contract awards. This is added to the extravagant lifestyle of these stooges and aides, poor governance structure, audit reports and general mismanagement at FIRS,” PRNigeria quoted a source in the presidency as saying.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, had on August 8 queried the ex-chairman of the Lagos
State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) over dwindling tax revenue since 2015.
Kyari ordered Fowler to explain why in 2015, FIRS set N4.7 trillion target but only made N3.7 trillion in the actual collection.
In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the target collections were N4.2 trillion, N4.8 trillion and N6.7 trillion but the actual collections were N3.3 trillion, N4.0 trillion and N5.3 trillion, respectively.
The president’s chief of staff had in a query to the ex-FIRS chairman ordered him to explain the reasons behind the differences in budgeted collections and actual collections in the last three years.
“You are kindly invited to submit a comprehensive variance analysis explaining the reasons for the variances between the budgeted collections and actual collections for each main tax item for each of the years 2015 to 2018,” Kyari demanded in the query.
But Fowler defended the FIRS performance under him and insisted that what was considered a shortfall fall in revenue was not as a result of misappropriated funds but actually a reflection of the state of the economy within the years under review.
Few days after appointing Mohammed Nami as the Chairman of FIRS, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) commended the President for not renewing Fowler’s tenure, saying the decision was timely and auspicious, considering the dwindling tax collection and revenue generation for the Federal Government.
The group in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, said the apparent limited capacity of the FIRS under Fowler to efficiently facilitate an effective tax collection system has turned the country into a net borrower of needed funds to finance desired critical infrastructural projects.
“The reality is that Nigeria is fast becoming a debt-dependent economy with dire consequences for the cost of capital formation and economic sustainability. This is principally because the FIRS failed to ramp up tax collection which is the primary source of any nation’s income to fund national budget’s recurrent and capital expenditures,” the BMO said.
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