Uche Usim, Abuja
As the tenure of Mr Tunde Fowler, Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), heads towards its sunset, recent trends within the Presidency and the Revenue House tend to suggest that some vested interest groups, including staff in the organisation are hell -bent on scuttling his second term ambition at heading the government’s revenue agency.
Fowler, a close ally of the All Progressive Congress (APC) party stalwart, Bola Tinubu, had escaped several booby traps designed to see him out of the FIRS since assuming office in August of 2015. But those opposed to his second term ambition are however not giving up on their mission to sack him or at worst rob him a second term and have already started shopping for a replacement.
To achieve their target they have unearthed one alleged atrocious act after the other to leave President Buhari with no option than to replace Fowler and appoint another qualified Nigerian to head the FIRS.
The FIRS boss’s appointment was confirmed by the Senate in December 2015 and his tenure is expected to expire this week going by the date he was appointed; although some people have suggested it would expire in December, the month his appointment was confirmed.
Allegations leveled against Fowler include; sedimented corruption via inflated contracts and supervising the abuse of duty tour allowances by staff; money-for-employment scandal, flooding the agency with parasitic consultants thus making many staff redundant; parading questionable certificates which shows he may have been scammed by foreign institutions; discrepancies in revenue generation and remittances.
Other allegations against the FIRS boss include; 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 took a long time to settle.
There was also an allegation of 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.
His enemies are standing on the aforesaid factors to urge the authorities to take him out and allow for a comprehensive audit of his stewardship and possibly fumigate the system.
Some staff who craved anonymity to avoid a scalding witch-hunt allege that Fowler has contaminated all operations of the FIRS.
They said: “If he is not eased out of the system, it will fail very soon. For example, we have a fund for maintenance and repair of tax controllers’ operational vehicles. When he came, he abolished it and collapsed it into a pool and outsourced the money to a mechanic company he brought from Lagos. A repair of N20,000 will take three months for them to do, so we have most vehicles grounded”.