The newly appointed Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami, on Monday launched a veiled criticism of his predecessor in office, Babatunde Fowler, accusing his management of superintending a steady decline in revenue collection by the service since the inception of his tenure in 2015.
It was meant to be the new chairman’s first Christmas message and felicitation to the revenue service staff since his assumption of office on December 19.
But, he used the message to carry out a performance assessment of Mr Fowler’s management, accusing it of failing to maintain the “impressive performance” the agency recorded since 2011, with 2012 as the benchmark year for outstanding performance.
Reviewing the performance and workforce of the service between 2011 and 2019, Mr Nami took a jab at Mr Fowler, saying “despite the rise in Service workforce, the engagement of consultants, the rise in inflation and the exchange rates, the tax revenue collection (of the FIRS) continues to dwindle.”
Commending the FIRS staffers for “displaying the spirit of steadfastness, resilience, perseverance and deftness in the discharge of your assigned responsibilities,” he urged then to use the yuletide holiday to ponder over the past and resolve to resume refreshed and better prepared to serve.
He also made reference to 2012, three years before Mr Fowler’s appointment, as the best year for the FIRS.
“As a result of your uncommon commitment to duty, 2012 especially, you were able to raise Five Trillion, Seven Billion Naira even without active participation of consultants and with moderate inflation and exchange rates. I want to be positive that this impressive performance is achievable again,” the Chairman reminded the workers.
Mr Fowler was appointed the Chairman of FIRS in August 2015. On assumption of office, he introduced the use of tax consultants in the collection of tax revenues and other services, a policy brought forward from his time as the Director of the Lagos State Revenue Service.
Despite the controversy that trailed the use of tax consultants to carry out services thousands of regular FIRS staff were competent and qualified to render, Mr Fowler sustained the policy till the end of his tenure last December 9.
On August 8, the presidency, through the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, queried Mr Fowler over “observed significant variances between the budgeted collections and actual collections for the period 2015 to 2018.”
The presidency accused Mr Fowler of consistently not being able to meet his collection target since assumption of office in 2015.
The query indicated that in 2015, although the FIRS set a revenue target of N4.7 trillion, it was only able to make N3.7 trillion in actual collection.
In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the presidency said from target collections of N4.2 trillion, N4.8 trillion and N6.7 trillion, the actual collections were N3.3 trillion, N4.0 trillion and N5.3 trillion, respectively.
A presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu explained that the reason Mr Fowler’s tenure was not renewed as the chairman of the FIRS was that the poor performance of the service under his management irked the president, who queried him over insufficient tax collection since 2015.