The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), virtually collapsed under its previous management, its new chief has said.
Muhammad Nami, who assumed office as chairman last December, said he had to “build the entire structure of the service again from scratch.”
This is not the first time Mr Nami is criticising the administration of his predecessor, Babatunde Fowler. In December, while giving his first Christmas message and felicitation to the revenue agency’s staff, he accused Mr Fowler’s management of superintending a steady decline in revenue collection by the service since the inception of his tenure in 2015.
Mr Nami assumed office on December 19, 2019.
In a recent interview with PREMIUM TIMES and other journalists in Abuja, he said his first 100 days in office has been challenging.
“It’s challenging because it appears I am having to build the entire structure of the service again from scratch in addition to meeting the huge target set for us by the federal government.
“So, you can see that it is not an easy ride. But, so far I thank God that we are gradually patching things up. The members of staff have been very cooperative and supportive,” he said.
He said that when he came on board, the entire structure of the agency had virtually collapsed.
“So I had the daunting task of piecing together the pieces,” he said.
He also said the staff are quite excited now and willing to work harder than before because he took steps to return the functions previously given to consultants back to the staff so that they can perform optimally.
Upon assumption of office in August 2015, Mr Fowler introduced the use of tax consultants in the collection of tax revenues and other services, a policy brought forward from his time as the head of the Lagos State Revenue Service.
Despite the controversy that trailed the use of tax consultants to carry out services thousands of regular FIRS staff were competent and qualified to render, Mr Fowler sustained the policy till the end of his tenure last December 9.
Also, in August, the presidency in a letter signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, queried Mr Fowler over worsening tax collection since 2015.
“We have observed significant variances between the budgeted collections and actual collections for the period 2015 to 2018,” Mr Kyari wrote in the letter, dated August 8, 2019.
The query indicated that in 2015, although the FIRS set a revenue target of N4.7 trillion, it was only able to make N3.7 trillion in the actual collection.
In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the presidency said from target collections of N4.2 trillion, N4.8 trillion and N6.7 trillion respectively, the actual collections were N3.3 trillion, N4.0 trillion and N5.3 trillion, respectively.
In response, Mr Fowler said the query served him did not reflect all the facts.
While he agreed that actual tax collection since the beginning of Mr Buhari’s administration is lower than the 2012-2014 period under former President Goodluck Jonathan, he told the presidency that the FIRS under him has performed better regarding specific non-oil tax types, such as VAT and CIT.
He explained that the general lower collection since 2015 was as a result of oil market crisis which has seen a fall in commodity price compared to the period under Mr Jonathan, and recession “which slowed down economic activities.”
Efforts to reach Mr Fowler to comment on this fresh criticism from his successor were unsuccessful as he did not return his calls nor reply text messages