Following the controversies that trailed the departure of the immediate past chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, a presidential spokesperson has revealed possible reason for his (Fowler’s) exit.
Fowler’s tenure was not renewed after its completion.
Shehu Garba, while speaking to journalists, said the revenue challenge confronting the government which forced it to go borrowing to meet government’s challenges, may have impelled the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to take actions in key revenue-generating agencies, including the FIRS.
Shehu said this in an interview with journalists in Abuja as reported by The Cable on Monday.
Fowler, who had served as the first Lagos State Internal Revenue Service chairman for eight years, irked President Buhari, who queried him over insufficient tax collection since 2015, a prelude to him relieving him of his job weeks later.
President Buhari also vowed to take action on underperforming revenue agencies.
“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,” President Buhari had said.
President Buhari had on December 9 replaced Fowler hours after the former FIRS boss’ tenure expired.
It later emerged that Fowler actively lobbied for a second shot at the plum job.
According to Shehu, the low revenue “had left the government no choice but to borrow to carry out essential projects.”
“So, if you ask me, from my own understanding, the problem we have in this country is the revenue issue,” he said.
“We have a revenue problem because we are unable to generate as much money as it is needed to do more capital infrastructure and also service debt. Because of the low revenue earnings, people look at the size of our debt repayment and they scream.
“The government is doing something about this and I’m happy you have seen the change that has happened in FIRS, give them a chance, let’s see how they would perform.
“Government is optimistic that things will look upward and the revenue will improve. And once there is an inflow that is sufficient to do a lot of these things, we may not even need to borrow.”
He also said the government was left with no other option but to borrow, a move he also defended.
“It is not a scandal to borrow, the bad thing about borrowing is when you deployed it to your pocket. This has happened in the past in this country, President Buhari is borrowing to do railway, to do East-West expressway, to do second Niger bridge, to do Mambilla power, to do Abuja-Kano expressway, to do Ajaokuta-Abuja gas pipeline.
“These are projects that are beneficial to the economy, these are basic infrastructure projects – railway, power – without which this country cannot achieve development.”
Fowler’s removal has generated controversies especially after President Buhari also removed the chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Muiz Banire.
Some political analysts have tagged the move a deliberate attempt to curb the influence of the South-west region politically.