All is not well within the Presidency over alleged misappropriation of N40 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, under the immediate past Chairman, Babatunde Fowler.
Mr Fowler who was appointed to superintendent Nigeria’s apex tax office was replaced on December 9, 2019, by a tax consultant, Muhammad Nami.
Sources knowledgeable about the development told PRNigeria that the ‘misappropriated’ money, which was purportedly used as ‘political campaign fund’ during 2019 election, did not sit well with the ‘Seat of Power’ as the top principal stakeholder has ordered investigation and prosecution of culprits.
While Mr Fowler is said to be caught in the web of the said fund, top officials in the Presidency are said to be angry and unsatisfied with the explanations on how the fund was ‘shared,’ vowing to punish other collaborators, including a powerful figure within the same presidency.
Also connected to the N40 billion sharing bazaar was an influential and powerful political gladiator in the Southwest who was said to have received a ‘paltry’ sum of N3 billion, which is less than 10 percent of the ‘campaign fund.’
It was gathered that already, some top management staff of FIRS have been arrested and are being interrogated on corruption allegations by anti-graft agencies.
“Some senior FIRS staff, about nine of them who were arrested in connection with the money are being interrogated by an anti-corruption agency. Some are accused of being involved in a multi-billion naira fraudulent actions and contract awards.
“This is added to the extravagant lifestyle of these stooges and aides, poor governance structure, audit reports and general mismanagement at FIRS,” a source within the Presidency claimed.
Recall that in August 8, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, had queried Mr Fowler for what the Presidency considered as unacceptably dwindling tax revenue since 2015 when the Buhari administration took over the country’s helm of governance.
Mr Kyari, in the query letter, ordered Mr Fowler to explain why in 2015, FIRS set N4.7 trillion target but was only able to make N3.7 trillion in the actual collection.
Also, in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the target collections were N4.2 trillion, N4.8 trillion and N6.7 trillion but the actual collections were N3.3 trillion, N4.0 trillion and N5.3 trillion, respectively.
“…you are kindly invited to submit a comprehensive variance analysis explaining the reasons for the variances between the budgeted collections and actual collections for each main tax item for each of the years 2015 to 2018,” Mr Kyari demanded in the letter.
But Mr Fowler, in his response, defended the performance of FIRS under him, attributing the fall in revenue generation to the state of the economy within the years under review.
According to him, the fall in crude oil production is one of the factors responsible for the low revenue generated.
However, apparently not satisfied by Mr Fowler’s defence, President Buhari in his October 1, 2019 Independence Anniversary Speech, said: “Our revenue-generating and reporting agencies will come under much greater scrutiny.
“Going forward, as the new performance management framework will reward exceptional revenue performance, while severe consequences will attend failures to achieve agreed revenue targets.”
Also, roping Mr Fowler and his benefactors into the quagmire, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Timi Frank had once alleged that the travails of the Vice president and Mr Fowler were due to corruption and have nothing to do with 2023 politics.
According to Mr Frank, the vice-president was being persecuted for alleged mismanagement of about N90 billion released by FIRS to prosecute the last general elections in favour of the APC.
But this allegation was quickly dismissed by FIRS, saying it did not make N90 billion available to Vice-President for the 2019 election campaign.
But PRNigeria gathered that these allegations which are still being investigated combined to stack up against Mr Fowler whose fate was officially sealed by Mr Buhari on December 9.
“Mind you, Fowler’s sack has not closed this chapter. Expect more casualties as more revelations are unraveled. More heads may roll including very top figures who are already roped in and cornered by the scandals,” the source said.