Yesterday, in what could be considered an anticipated move, President Buhari decided against extending the tenure of Babatunde Fowler as the chairman Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Mr Muhammad Nami was appointed as the new FIRS chairman subject to confirmation by the senate. We recall that Babatunde Fowler was appointed by Buhari on 10 August 2015 and was subsequently confirmed by the senate on 9 December 2015. Consequently, his tenure expired 8 December 2019 necessitating either an extension of his tenure or the appointment of a new FIRS chief.
Muhammad Nami, the new FIRS boss graduated from Bayero University Kano where he studied Sociology and proceeded to obtain an MBA from Ahmadu Bello University. He his a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and an Associate member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) & Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN). Currently, he is the Managing Consultant of Manam Professional Services (Chartered Tax Practitioners and Business Advisers).
The decision by President Buhari not to extend Babatunde Fowler’s tenure has been met with mixed reactions. Many had expected his tenure will be extended considering his stellar performance as FIRS Chairman. From his year of appointment (2015) till the end of 2018, tax collection under Fowler’s regime grew by 42.2% to N5.3 trillion from N3.7 trillion while also increasing Nigeria’s tax base to over 20 million taxpayers compared with c.10m as at 2016. Notably, the sum of N5.3tn collected last year is a record high in Nigeria’s tax collection history.
These achievements are notable given that the nation fell into a recession during his tenure while oil taxes dwindled due to a decline in oil production and price. Furthermore, he was responsible for the digitisation drive of the FIRS with notable improvements in tax registration, audit and payment procedures. He also introduced the Tax Amnesty Program which implemented the much-publicized Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).
At the erstwhile chairman’s handover ceremony, the acting chairman, Abiodun Aina (who will hold that position until the senate’s confirmation of Mohammed Nami) in his speech mentioned how several top-ranked officials resisted the massive changes Fowler brought to the Service. In his words, he said Mr Fowler “stepped on toes” in a bid to drive his change and vision for FIRS. We also recall Mr Fowler was served a query from the office of the President signed by Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff of the Federation which was duly responded to by Mr Fowler.
That said, despite the controversies trailing the appointment of a new FIRS chief, we think the nominated candidate is reasonably qualified and possesses enough professional experience to steer the affairs of the service.
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