Nigeria: FIRS Boss, Fowler, Not Under Investigation - Presidency

20 August 2019

Abuja — The presidency has clarified that the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, is not under any investigation over the agency's failure to meet revenue generation targets.

Most national dailies had reported yesterday that Fowler was being investigated over the gaps between revenue generation targets and actual collection reflected in the Federation Account.

In a reaction to the reports, presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, said that the letter from the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, to Fowler, on which the reports were based, merely raised concerns over the negative run of the tax revenue collection in recent times.

Kyari had in the memo he wrote to Fowler demanded explanation from him on why the FIRS had failed to meet its revenue targets between 2015 and 2018.

Consequently, he said that it would appeared that the country might be heading for a fiscal crisis if urgent steps were not taken to halt the negative trends in target setting and target realisation in tax revenue.

He said: "Anyone conversant with Federal Executive Council (FEC) deliberations would have observed that issues on revenue form the number one concern of what Nigeria faces today, and therefore, often take a prime place in discussions of the body.

"It is noteworthy and highly commendable that under this administration, the number of taxable adults has increased from 10 million to 20 million with concerted efforts still on-going to bring a lot more into the tax net," he said.

Fowler Explains Decline In Revenue Generation

Meanwhile, Fowler has blamed the downward trend in actual revenue generation into the Federation Account on the fall in oil prices, which he said, affected oil-based taxes.

He also blamed the revenue shortage on the reduction in crude oil production from 2.31 million barrel per day (mbpd), 2.18 mbpd and 2.20 mbpd in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to 2.12 mbpd, 1.81 mbpd and 1.88 mbpd in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

In his response to Kyari's query, the FIRS boss said that the observed variance in the budgeted and actual revenue collection performance of the Service for the period 2016 to 2018 was due to the low inflow of oil revenues for the period, especially Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT).

A source in FIRS quoted Fowler as saying that, "FIRS management has control of non-oil revenue collection figures while oil revenue collection figures are subject to more external forces."

The price of crude oil fell from an average of $113.72, $110.98 and $100.40 per barrel in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to $ 52.65, $43.80 and $54.08 per barrel in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Fowler allegedly told Kyari that non-oil revenue collection grew by N1.304 trillion or one per cent within the period of 2016 to 2018.

"It Is worthy of note that strategies and initiatives adopted in the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) during the period 2015-2017 led to approximately 40 per cent increase over 2012 -2014 collections. In 2014, the VAT collected was N802 billion, compared to N1.1trillion in 2018. This Increase Is attributable to various initiatives such as ICT innovations, continuous taxpayer education, taxpayer enlightenment, among others, embarked upon by the Service," he explained.

The FIRS chairman is confident that his current strategies and initiatives will improve revenue collections and meet the expectations of the government, the source said.

PDP Accuses APC, FG Of Complicity

In it's reaction, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the revelation of variances pointing to alleged siphoning of trillions of naira belonging to taxpayers' collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) confirms its stance that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Buhari Presidency is neck-deep in corruption and looting.

The opposition party said the discovery of variances in the remission of taxes vindicates its concerns about underhand dealings and frittering of monies collected as taxes in the last four years.

It, therefore, urged the National Assembly to hold a public inquest into the handling of taxes collected by the FIRS in the last four years, take urgent steps to recover the stolen funds and channel such to projects that have direct bearing on the welfare of Nigerians.

In a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said that Nigerians are not deceived by the desperation of agents of the Buhari Presidency to cover its complicity by seeking a fall guy in Fowler.

The PDP said that a critical study of the leaked correspondence from Kyari to Fowler in the wake of the revelations of financial discrepancies at FIRS, betrays the complicity of the cabal in the Buhari Presidency.

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