Nigeria: Top FIRS Officials Granted Bail As Investigations Into Alleged Fraud Continue

At least nine senior officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have been granted bail, PREMIUM TIMES understands.

The top officials, detained by the anti-graft agency over allegations of fraud, were granted bail Tuesday.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the officials were questioned over uncleared payments made to some staff of the agency.

This newspaper on Monday reported that the officials include the Director of Finance and Accounts (DFA) of the FIRS, Mohammed Auta.

Apart from Mr Auta, another director of the agency, Peter Hena, is also alleged to be involved in the scandal.

Sources told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday that although at least nine of the officials have been granted bail, investigations into the alleged fraudulent payments would continue.

A source who craved anonymity told PREMIUM TIMES that the arrest and detention of the officials must have been triggered by a petition written by an insider within the agency.

Wahab Gbadamosi, the spokesperson for the FIRS, said enquiry by government investigative agencies is a continuous and routine exercise which occurs from time to time. He added that the FIRS as a law-abiding agency of government will cooperate with investigators in its efforts to unravel the alleged fraudulent payments.

He added, however, that some of the claims reported in the media since the news broke were exaggerated and inaccurate. He assured that the FIRS will clarify the issues as appropriate.

Mr Gbadamosi emphasised, also, that Mr Hena, the Coordinating Director, Support Services Group of the FIRS, is not on the run. He said that the director is officially on medical leave and will return to the country as soon as his leave period lapses.

EFCC sources had on Tuesday said that Mr Hena will be arrested as soon as he returns to the country. He is the second most senior official of the FIRS and is believed to be one of the closest officials to the agency's chairman, Babatunde Fowler.

It is still unclear to EFCC officials, whether or not Mr Fowler is involved in the scandal. PREMIUM TIMES has no evidence of the involvement of the FIRS chief.

Our reporter learnt that most of the other affected officials are from the finance and account department of the FIRS.

The FIRS is saddled with collecting taxes and revenues of the federal government.

The agency under Mr Fowler has seen its revenue generation improve, setting new records. The agency said it collected about N5.32 trillion as revenue in 2018, the highest in Nigeria's history.

The EFCC is closing in on several other senior officials of the revenue collection service in a widening investigation to uncover other fraudulent activities involving several billions of government tax revenues, this newspaper understands.

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