By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff, CAS, to President Muhammadu Buhari, described in political circles, as one of the most powerful personal Aides of Buhari in the Presidency appears to have laid the foundation for the sacking of Tunde Fowler, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, a government revenue generating agency next to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation., NNPC; Kyari, who has the ear of the President was said to have queried the Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, APC, boy’s over the alleged discrepancies discovered in the revenue collections of the agency in the last four years.
The Presidential CAS may have issued the query to the IRS boss to draw the attention of the President to the mess in the agency and quickly do something fast about it before it gets worse. An aggrieve Kyari was said to have raised alarm in the query issued the FIRS, Executive Chairman, that there are variations between the budgeted collections and actual collections of taxes between 2015 and 2018.
More worrisome was the President’s Aide’s claims that the tax collections between 2015 and 2017 , e under the current Administration were significantly worse than what was said to have been collected under the Corruption ridden former President Goodluck Jonathan Administration. Between 2012 and 2014.
Note that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had approved a four percent Cost of collection to the agency in order to encourage them to improve on their yearly revenue collections. In the same vein, Obasanjo was said to have also approved seven percent Cost of collection for the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS. But Fowler had made Nigerians to believe that the Cost of Collections for the agency had been going down , which analysts had attributed to poor revenue collections in the last four years.
Given an insider information, the FIRS boss had revealed that the agency against all odds collected N3.307 trillion in 2016, n4.027 trillion in 2017 and 5.320 trillion in 2018. The FIRS helmsman who would not believe that the agency is performing below expectations noted that that there had been steady improvement over its revenue Collections in the last three years.
Recall that last January , he had gladdened the heart of Nigerian when he announced that it has budgeted to collect N8 trillion from oil and non oil exports this year. The optimism was informed by the revenue that was collected in 2018 due to the blockage of all areas of revenue leakage.
The FIRS boss was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that the agency officials had not allowed the drop in the their Cost of Collection incentives that was approved by the Obasanjo Administration in subsequent years to affect their operations. He had disclosed that in 2016, the agency got below the four percent Cost of Collections. According to him, the agency was only given 2.6 , 2.49 percent in 2017 and 2.14 percent in 2018. Fowler opined that in spite of the fact that the agency has been making tremendous efforts over the last two years to increase its tax collections, particular from the non- oil sectors of the economy, the government has not really rewarded them appropriately.
It is not surprising why Critics had accused the CAS, of having ulterior motive for querying the agency and inviting the Executive Chairman to submit a Comprehensive variance analysis of its revenue Collections between 2015 to 2018 to his office and explaining reasons for the poor collections but did state what would happen to happen to him if he failed to do so . The question on the lips of most people: Is the FIRS now under the CAS to The President or the ministry of Finance?
Many believe that that Kyari may have taken advantage of the delay by the President to assign, any of the cleared ministerial nominees by the Senate to oversee the ministry of Finance to send a signal to the Ministries, Parastatals and Agencies that the bulk stops on his table and therefore, he must be carried along by them or be ready for trouble.
This is where the Katsina born Nigerian President may have to intervene to call the CAS to order before he extends his powers to probing NNPC or NCS, which might have a backlash effect on the government. Already, he may have known that the NCS is a no go area as Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General would not give him room to interfere in his agency as he is not answerable to him.
Political analysts describe the query issued Fowler, the FIRS , Executive Chairman, by Kyari, the President’s CAS, as laughable as only the President has the powers to retain or sack him .
Giving the Presidents style of Administration, which has become noticeable in his second term in office, he believes in working with people he knows and not strange faces. He has worked with Fowler in the last four years and may not want to drop him as being planned by Kyari. He was said to have made similar moves against Godwin Emefiele, the Delta state governor of Central Bank of Nigeria , CBN, in order not to be considered for another five years in office by the President but was disappointed.
While Kyari is battling to put all Chief Executives of MDAs under his control and ensure the removal of anyone who does not recognise his Authority, Anthony Ayine, the Auditor General of the Federation, AGF, is not happy with the government agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the acting Chairmanship of Ibrahim Magu, for violating the country’s accounting rules and failing to submit their annual financial returns to the Department for proper scrutiny.
Ayine had said that about N13.96 billion reported as salaries and wages in the Consolidated Financial Statement of the EFCC, it was not on the trial balance list of agencies and other government Departments or ministries submitted for reconciliation.
He may have shocked Nigerians when he revealed that the anti-graft agency is one of the agencies with doubtful Cash balance of over N315 million. Others on the list are the State House, Office of the CAS to the President and the National Assembly.
The Auditor General, believes that many of the MDAs may not have taken the auditing of their yearly financial records serious over the years because of the believe that the Department can only bark without biting. He noted that the situation has been made worse as there is no enabling law that could compel and sanction MDAs which ignores audit queries and the refusal of the President to assent to sensitive bills on fiscal governance.
Ayine who could not hide his feelings lamented that MDAs without audited reports have increased from 148 in 2014 to 323 over the last four years, an indications that there is much financial indiscipline under the Buhari Administration than under previous Administrations which calls for questions.
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