FIRS boss, Ifueko Omogui Okauru, bows out untainted

Ifueko Omogui Okauru

Amid speculations at the weekend that she was fired by President Goodluck Jonathan last week, outgoing Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, said her impending exit next Monday follows a plan spelt out by her official tenure.

The FIRS boss, reputed for providing focused, effective  and transparent leadership to the federal tax agency, is bowing out gracefully, having brought about unprecedented reforms to Nigeria’s tax system and quadrupling the country’s non-oil revenues.

In a clime where public officials are routinely inept and corrupt, Mrs. Omoigui Okauru stands out clearly as an exemplary manager of public institution, and offers a ray of hope that there are a few good and committed leaders in Nigeria.

The outgoing FIRS boss, who was appointed in May 2004 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a term of four years, was reappointed by the late Musa Yar’Adua administration on April 10, 2008 for another term that would terminate on April 9, 2012.

The outgoing chairman, who addressed the media in Abuja on Friday, in what is her valedictory briefing, said contrary to negative reports about her exit, all activities she undertook in the past one week were part of “a natural conclusion of my term of office.”

“Yesterday (Thursday), which was the only official working day when staff would be around, the official announcement was made, to avoid that when they come back on Tuesday and find that I am no longer there, there would not be any surprise,” she said.

“The last one week has been a time of saying thank you to everyone for the support. I met with the Joint Tax Board (JTB), as the Chairman, to say farewell. I held the meeting of the FIRS Board on Wednesday to say farewell. I was at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to say farewell. I met with the Nigerian Economic Management Team and the National Economic Council. So, it was it was a planned exit, which ends on Monday, April 9.”

Reviewing eight years of an eventful tenure, Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru, expressed satisfaction that she was able to provide the leadership to the team that laid a solid foundation for the country’s tax administration system to build on, though she warned that more work still needed to be done.

“Our main mandate was to institute tax reforms and ultimately ensure that we were building institutions that would guarantee sustained revenue flow to government,” she said.

“We achieved a lot as a team. I was just providing the leadership. We started off with a clear vision and a strategic direction. Not only did we come up with the harmonized tax reform agenda, we also came up with a clear vision, not just for FIRS, but also for the Joint Tax Board. That we were founded on a very solid foundation was a clear achievement.

“All that we have been doing in the last eight years was to build a solid foundation the country can build on. It might look as we have done a lot, but there is still so much more to be done.”

She identified several achievements under her leadership in the last eight years, which saw tax collection grow by more than four folds from less than N1.2trillion (about $7.9billion) in 2004 to over N4.6trillion (over $30billion) in 2011, but however wants her successor to pay attention to two ongoing projects to solidify the foundation of an effective tax administration in the country.

These include the integrated tax administration system automation, which has been approved for implementation within the next three to four years, and the taxpayer identification number (TIN), which was launched last week, pending official roll of.

According to her, all that the FIRS has done at the moment are largely manual, pointing out that if the automated tax system is implemented, added to quality staffing, infrastructure, funding, support and effective collaboration, the country would be talking about a different revenue service in the next four years.

She listed some of her achievements to include the development of a Vision 20:2020 for the country’s tax system; implementation of a harmonized tax reform agenda that resulted in medium term strategic plans for the FIRS as well as the development of a national tax policy to strengthen the service to discharge its functions effectively.

Besides, she spoke of the pursuit of a tax legislation and regulation, to provide the legal framework to drive tax administration, including the laws, policies, vision and regulation.

Out of nine bills sent to the National Assembly for approval, she said five landmark tax laws were approved, including the Federal Inland Revenue Service Establishment Act 2007 that is driving the overall functioning of the service and its ability to recruit, develop and reward staff towards optimum performance; the value added tax (Amendment) Act 2007; the Companies and Income tax (Amendment) Act 2007; the National Automobile Council (Amendment) Act 2007 and the Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Act 2011, while several others are currently being reviewed.

“Our success was driven by plans and introduction of a strong performance management culture,” she said. “We did not just plan, we also monitored the plans, which are linked to key performance indicators, which drive who deserves the performance bonuses. 

“Everyone is driven by set targets. Currently, we are on the third year of the medium-term strategic plan. We started off with the 2004-2007 plan, then 2008-2011 plan, and now 2012-2015 plan. 

Other key achievements include significantly reorganizing the service into a modern tax authority; creating a one-stop integrated tax office for the convenience of the tax payer; restructuring the service to highlight modern tax authority functions and recording more than 20 convictions for tax evasion and other abuses during the period.

She urged her successor to ensure that the planned management approach in tax administration as well as strategic collaborations with different sectors are kept if the momentum of success is to be sustained.

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