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Why Fowler, FIRS boss got a query

Fowler not under investigation – Presidency

BABATUNDE Fowler, chief executive of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), is expected to respond to the query served him by President Muhammadu Buhari today.

The query stamp, dated August 8, was issued over declining tax collection since 2015.

Sources within the FIRS confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday after a letter querying Mr Fowler’s delivery appeared on the social media in the morning.

In the query, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, said the presidency “observed significant variances between the budgeted collections and actual collections for the period 2015 to 2018.”

A copy of the query served to Mr. Fowler

Mr. Fowler was asked to respond by Monday, August 19.

The FIRS records obtained by The ICIR showed that while the tax collection was on the increase throughout the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, reverse is the case in the Buhari administration.

In fact, the FIRS under Mr Fowler, unlike his predecessor Samuel Odugbesan, has never met collection targets since his appointment as chief executive in 2015.

For example, FIRS targeted revenue was N3.64 trillion in 2011, and the agency by the year end has collected N4.63 trillion.

In 2012, the collection rose to N5 trillion.

Though a shortfall of N200 billion occurred in 2013, FIRS was still able to exceed its target of N4.47 trillion ­­– the actual collection being N4.8 trillion.

In 2014, the target was N4.09 trillion, while the actual revenue was N4.71 trillion

But since 2015, tax collection has been on a consistent decline, and there was no time the agency met its own target.

In 2015, the collection was N3.74 trillion against the target revenue of N4.57 trillion.

The following year, FIRS lowered the bar and set a target of N4.2 trillion, yet it was only able to hit N3.31 trillion. In 2017, the target was N4.89, while the actual was N4.02.

The collected revenue in 2018 increased significantly to N5.32 trillion, but it fell short of N1.43 trillion – the target being N6.75 trillion.

The opposition party, PDP in a statement has described the consistent fall in revenue collection in the last four years as a vindication of their claim that the administration is corrupt.

“The stealing of our taxes by APC agents has brought so much anguish to Nigerians, who suffer the brunt of collapsed infrastructure, decay of social amenities and a crippled national economy under President Buhari,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Garba Shehu,  Special Senior Adviser, Media & Publicity has tweeted that the chief tax officer is not under investigation.

“Following reports making the rounds in some media outlets, it is necessary to state categorically that the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler, is not under any investigation.

“The letter from the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, on which the purported rumour of an investigation is based, merely raises concerns over the negative run of the tax revenue collection in recent times.”

Data on tax collections in Nigeria showed that FIRS has been beating its target since 2000, except 2006 when it recorded a shortfall of N1.2 trillion.

Fowler was the Executive Chairman Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue and Chief Executive Officer Lagos State Internal Revenue Service between 2005 and 2013. He was appointed the chairman of FIRs in 2015.

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