Babatunde Fowler, the immediate past Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision not to retain him as the tax boss after being replaced by Muhammad M. Nami yesterday.
Fowler, who was appointed in 2015 after transforming Lagos State tax system, said there is nothing automatic about having a second term. It was believed his appointment would be renewed as enshrined in the FIRS Establishment Act.
Fowler calls replacement surprising: While he agreed that people will take his replacement as a surprise during his handover to the most senior director, Abiodun Aina, he said it was a privilege to serve Nigeria.
“Let me thank all of you who are here for what we have been able to do for our country. From the driver to the senior staff, everybody played a role. But with change, sometimes there is resistance. People will not understand the vision, will not understand the reason for the change. But hope in leaving FIRS, I’ve left behind something, something, positive, that each and every one of you can build on.
“We have got a mandate. That mandate is not just to collect revenue. It’s a mandate to collect the maximum amount of revenue for all concerned for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“There is nothing automatic about having a second term. Some of you might say it’s a big surprise. It a privilege to serve one’s country. And if you have the privilege of serving your country for one term and you believe you have done your best, you have to thank God for that,
He added that during his period, Nigeria became a relevant player in the global tax system, with some Nigerians taking up vital positions in international organisations.
“We have the opportunity to show the world that Nigeria has a lot to offer. It was during this period that we had a top Director, representing Nigeria and the world at the OECD.
“It was within this period that Nigeria, for the first time chaired ATAF (African Tax Administration Forum), for two years running. It was within this period that Nigeria through your support, was appointed as the 1st Vice Chairman of the United Nations Committee of Tax Experts. So we have a lot going for us,” he also thanked President Buhari for the opportunity to serve.
What caused Fowler’s replacement? Although his tenure ended before he was replaced, his retainment was in doubt after a leaked memo disclosed the query issued to him by the Presidency for the failure of FIRS to achieve its projected tax revenue under his leadership.
The memo noted that the actual collections between 2015 and 2017 were significantly worse than what was collected between 2012 and 2014. Fowler defended himself, stating that the recession experienced by the Nigerian economy in 2016 as well as the drop in oil prices affected the revenue collected by the FIRS between 2015 and 2018.