Lawyer asks court to sack FIRS chief Fowler

Babatunde Fowler, FIRS Chairman
Babatunde Fowler, FIRS Chairman

A lawyer, Stanley Okwara, has sued the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, at the Federal High Court in Kano. The lawyer wants the court to sack Mr Fowler from office for allegedly overstaying his tenure.

The suit with number FHC/KN/CS/141/2019, seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, was filed by the plaintiff’s counsel, Johnmary Jideobi, on September 18.

Mr Okwara asked for an order barring Mr Fowler from further parading himself as the chairman of FIRS unless he is re-appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Joined in the suit as the second defendant is the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

The lawyer in the Originating Summons posed two questions of law and asked the court to determine, “Whether in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections 3(2) (a), Section 4(a) and Section 11 (a) of the Federal Inland Revenue [Establishment] Act, 2007, the 1st Defendant [who was appointed on the 18th August, 2015] has not ceased to hold office as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after the 18th day of August, 2019?”

Another issue for determination is, “Whether the continuous stay of the 1st Defendant as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after the 18th day of August 2019 is not illegal in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections 3(2) (a), Section 4(a) and Section 11 (a) of the Federal Inland Revenue [Establishment] Act, 2007 especially when the 1st Defendant was appointed on the 18th day of August 2015?”

Upon determination of the questions, Mr Okwara sought, “A declaration that in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of sections 3(2) (a), 4(a) and 11 (a) of the Federal Inland Revenue [Establishment] Act, 2007, the first defendant (who was appointed on the 18thAugust, 2015) has ceased to hold office as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after August 18,2019.

Read also: Fowler replies Buhari, explains low tax revenue

“A declaration that the continuous stay of the first defendant as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after the 18th day of August 2019 is illegal in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections 3(2) (a), 4(a) and 11 (a) of the Federal Inland Revenue [Establishment] Act, 2007 especially when the first defendant was appointed on the 18th day of August 2015.

“An order directing the first defendant to return forthwith to the Treasury Single Account of the Federation all the salaries, emoluments and such other kindred monetary benefits he has been drawing on the purse of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and file an affidavit of compliance within fourteen (14) days after the delivery of judgment in this suit.”

Mr Jideobi told PREMIUM TIMES that after hearing the ex-parte application of the plaintiff, the court presided over by Justice Lewis-Allagoa ordered that the defendants be served in Abuja and abridged their time to file their defence to five days.

He said the judge further ordered the FIRS boss to appear before it on October 7 to show cause why an interim order of injunction restraining him from parading himself as and exercising the powers and functions of the FIRS Chairman should not be granted against him as prayed by the plaintiff in their ex-parte application.

President Buhari has not spoken on whether or not he plans to reappoint Mr Fowler. Recent action by the presidency, however, suggests Mr Buhari is not favourably disposed to reappointing Mr Fowler.

Mr Fowler was recently queried by President Buhari who, through his chief of staff, asked him to explain why FIRS collections under Mr Fowler were consistently lower than its targets.

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The tax agency chief has since responded to the query indicating the revenue collected by the agency was the best possible within the economic situation of the country.

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