WE rejoice with Nigeria on the recent appointment of the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guteress, as a member of the International Experts Committee on Tax Matters. The Committee has 25 members worldwide. It is a four-year appointment to commence at the inauguration ceremony in Geneva on October 1, 2017. The Committee is a subsidiary of the Economic and Social Council and falls within the Financing for Development division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs. The membership of the tax committee reflects the diversity of the UN membership and places particular focus on development and developing countries. As a member of the committee, Fowler will work with relevant organisations such as the World Bank and regional associations.
The letter of appointment was conveyed to the FIRS boss by Minister Plenipotentiary at the Nigerian Mission in New York, USA, Mr. Bola Akinremi. It is a well-deserved appointment that underscores Fowler’s rising profile in the global arena, in particular, his deep knowledge on tax matters and innovations.
By the new feather in his cap, Fowler has joined the glittering list of Nigerian professionals who have earned choice appointments as a result of their excellent public service. In the last two years, two Nigerians, Ms. Arunma Oteh and Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina who served meritoriously in government were appointed as Vice President (Treasury) World Bank, and President, African Development Bank (AfDB), respectively. Fowler’s appointment by the UN Secretary General is not a surprise considering his commitment to tax matters. Prior to the latest appointment, Fowler won the prestigious African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) award for the “Best innovation in Africa”.
The award was the result of the agency’s e-Stamp Duty solution. Though he had made his mark in international finance, marketing, and banking, his career in the public service in Lagos State as the Chairman of the state Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) was his springboard for subsequent successes that attracted public recognition and acclaim.
During his tenure, the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue became autonomous and self-accounting. This came with the passage into Law in January 2006 of what became known as the “Lagos State Revenue Administration Law.” With this re- engineering, the revenue profile of the state began to witness phenomenal increase, rising from a modest N3.6 bn a month in 2006, to over N25bn a month currently.
That feat may have been a big factor in his appointment as the head of the FIRS. Under his leadership, the agency has been posting impressive revenue results. The latest figure from the agency shows it realised N2.5 trn between January and September 2017. Last year, the agency realised N3.303 trn. But, more than that, Fowler’s innovation in broadening the nations tax net, has positioned him as an ‘ideas man’ that should not be ignored. Many agree that his ability to improve quality delivery to taxpayers and the use of modern methods of tax administration will put him in good stead in his new assignment. Beyond that, he remains a vocal voice against Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil revenue. Very often, he has advised the Federal Government that the drastic drop in revenue will have a negative impact on the balance of payment in the Federation Account, and by extension, the amount that accrues to the three tiers of government.
We, therefore, urge him to see his new assignment as an honour that should be reciprocated through dedication to duty by stimulating interest and raising awareness on tax education. FIRS should see the appointment as not only a recognition of excellence but as a motivation to do more. Nigerian professionals should always strive for excellence and draw inspiration from Fowler’s appointment. We wish him the best in his new assignment.