The immediate past Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, said he did nothing wrong in handing over the management of the tax revenue agency to the Coordinating Director, Domestic Taxes Group, Abiodun Aina.
Mr Fowler spoke in response to a PREMIUM TIMES enquiry on Wednesday, following threats by some workers of the tax agency.
He said he followed due process in taking the decision after he was relieved of his position on Monday.
“All I will say is that the due process was followed in appointing him (Aina) as a Coordinating Director,” the former FIRS boss said in a text message in response to PREMIUM TIMES enquiries on Wednesday.
Following Monday’s appointment of Muhammad Nami as the new Executive Chairman of FIRS, the presidency directed the mantle of leadership to be handed over to the “most senior Director in the service” until Mr Nami is confirmed by the Senate.
In compliance of the presidential directive, Mr Fowler on Monday evening handed over to Mr Aina after thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for the privilege he gave him to serve in that capacity.
However, barely 24 hours after the handing over ceremony, a group which goes by the name, Joint Union Council, FIRS Unit, on Tuesday accused Mr Aina of not possessing the basic qualification to occupy the office.
The group also accused Mr Fowler of violating the presidential directive to hand over power to the most senior director of FIRS pending the confirmation of the new chairman’s appointment by the National Assembly and assumption of office.
In a petition signed by the chairman of the JUC, Okere Samson; the vice-chairman, Idris Abdulrahaman; Secretary, Lekwot Thomas, and 14 other members, the group highlighted why Mr Aina’s appointment should not stand.
The group faulted Mr Aina’s selection on the grounds that it was not in accordance with the presidential directive that the seniority list in the FIRS hierarchy should be followed.
Also, the group gave a 72 hours ultimatum that if by the close of work on Friday, December 13, 2019, no action is taken to meet their demand by reversing Mr Aina’s selection, they will no longer guarantee further industrial harmony in the system.
In the petition, the group said their grouse is that running the affairs of the FIRS cannot be handed over to a director who is neither competent nor qualified to occupy the position.
Copies of the petition were sent to the supervising Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria and his counterpart in the Nigeria Civil Service Union.
The petition read: “Please refer to the Presidential Directive on the appointment of the new FIRS Chairman, wherein there was a presidential directive for hand over to the most senior Director in the service.
“The attention of the Joint Union Council of FIRS has been drawn to the handover of the Chairmanship of FIRS on acting capacity to Mr. Biodun Aina on Monday, 9th December 2019. This was a clear departure from the Presidential Directive on the handing over, as he is not the most senior Director.
“Mr. Abiodun Aina in the first instance does not have the basic qualification/requirement (HND or BSc) to be employed into the service.
“Secondly, his appointment to the position of Coordinating Director was against the provision of section 2.19 of FIRS Human Resources Policies and Processes.”
The group quoted the provision on page 24 to read: “Appointment to the post of Coordinating Director shall be made by the Board (of FIRS) on the recommendation of the Executive Chairman. The appointment shall be open to all confirmed Directors of the Service and it shall be competitive based on experience, competence and seniority.”
The group said in its petition that Mr Aina was never a director in the service, rather a Senior Special Assistant to the immediate past Chairman of the FIRS.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the immediate past Chairman of FIRS, Tunde Fowler, on Wednesday for his reaction to the allegation, he responded with a short text message.
“Good morning I have left the system. But all I will say is that the due process was followed in appointing him (Aina) as a Coordinating Director. To check his qualifications, please google it. It’s in the public domain. Thank you and God bless,” Mr Fowler wrote in the text message
Also, the spokesperson of the FIRS, Wahab Gbadamosi, asked for some time to make contacts with the relevant parties for details on the issue before sending his response.
However, documents from the Federal Ministry of Finance seen by our reporter on Wednesday showed that the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, appointed Mr Aina as the Coordinating Director of FIRS on May 15, 2017, vide a formal letter No. HMF/FMF/FIRS/CD/1/2017.
In the letter, the former minister, who exercised the powers of the Board of FIRS through her office, explained that Mr Aina’s appointment was “in accordance with the powers delegated to the Honourable Minister of Finance, under Section 60 of the FIRS Establishment Act 2017.”