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Wednesday, 11 December 2019 07:10

Electricity workers begin strike

Nationwide blackout is imminent as electricity workers begin indefinite strike this morning.

The industrial action is declared under the aegis of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE)

The union said the decision to down tools remained the only option since there was no dialogue with the Federal Government to resolve the lingering industrial crisis in the sector.

 

Assistant Secretary General of NUEE Anthony Sule said the 21-day ultimatum given to Minister of Power Saleh Mamman expired at midnight on Tuesday.

Sule, in a statement issued in Jos, the Plateau State capital, said the union had no option but to commence an indefinite strike.

The statement said:  “The ministry of power has failed to resolve some issues affecting members of the union since 2013 when the power sector was privatised especially issues that with the over 2,000 disengaged former PHCN workers and their pay off.”

Some of the unresolved issues are illegal transfer of union properties to power investors and the alleged refusal by some distribution companies (DisCos) to remit deducted contributory pension of their members of staff  to pension managers.

He added that these issues were contained in a memo to the minister  dated 7th November, 2019.

 

Last night, General Secretary of NUEE Joe Ajaero said it was regrettable that the Ministry of Power  failed  to respond positively  to the strike notice  .

Ajaero said the only response from the ministry was the letter sent to the union on the November 18. He said tin the letter, the minister assured the union that something would  be done immediately he settled down.

He said after waiting, the union again wrote the minister on the December 6 but  up till yesterday, nothing had been done.

“The strike letter was sent to the Ministry of Power and there was one letter they wrote, saying the minister is not in the country and that he is still studying the situation. They said the minister would look into everything, that is all,” he added.

He said the union made sure that it sent its letter to all the relevant authorities in the power sector, including security agencies.

He also told The Nation that the strike notice was published in one of the national dailies to ensure that no one would claim not to have seen it.

“I can assure you, the strike will commence any time from now,” he vowed

Ajaero said the union had given more than enough opportunity for dialogue on the issues but that nothing was forthcoming from the government.

A power sector consultant who pleaded anonymity, said yesterday that the GenCos and DisCos were in dire need of  N1.2 billion bailout to improve services.

He also said one of the stakeholders, the Eko Distribution Company, had reached out to the union showing areas it had complied with its workers’ demands.

Ajero said notwithstanding the efforts of the Eko DisCo,  its services would still be affected  since  generation companies supply electricity to  DisCos.

 

TheNation

Vice Principal, teacher, NECO supervisor arrested over exam malpractice

 

 

The Vice Principal of Government Day Secondary School in Ote community of Eiye-Nkorin local government area of Kwara State, has been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside a teacher identified as Usman Lanre Kayode and a National Examination Council (NECO) Supervisor Saka Isiaka, over an alleged examination malpractice. 

 

The suspects were arrested after the anti-graft agency received an intelligence report of the school's management and supervisors of the centre extorting money from the students writing NECO in order to assist them in the examination.

 

EFCC's statement reads; 

 

The Ilorin Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has arrested three persons including a Vice Principal for allegedly collecting money from students participating in the ongoing National Examination Council (NECO) at Government Day Secondary School, Ote in Eiye-Nkorin Area of Kwara State.

The Suspects are: the Vice Principal of the School, Issa Abdulrahman; a teacher, Usman Lanre Kayode and a Supervisor of the Examination in the Centre, Saka Isiaka.

The Commission had received an intelligence report that the school management and supervisors of the centre were extorting money from the students writing NECO in order to assist them in the examination

Boris Johnson in a factory on the campaign trail
 Johnson’s notional majority falls from 68 to 28 as his party’s seat count falls by 20 to 339 Photograph: Getty Images

YouGov projects election results of Conservatives unchanged on 43% and Labour on 34%

What a difference two percentage points makes. YouGov’s second and much-hyped constituency-by-constituency poll puts the Conservatives unchanged on 43% and Labour on 34%, up two points on its previous effort a fortnight before.

The result is that Boris Johnson’s notional majority has been cut from 68 to 28 as his party’s seat count falls by 20 to 339 and Labour’s improves by the same amount to 231. The SNP takes 41 and the Liberal Democrats 15.

All this reflects how sensitive the British political system is to slight variations in voting patterns, which is why the Conservatives are so nervous about how the party leader responds to a story about a young child having to sleep on a hospital floor. After all, while the Tories remain favourites, a hung parliament cannot be ruled out.

The method used, the so-called MRP (which stands for a modelling technique called multilevel regression and post-stratification), models a result for each constituency by creating a profile for how various demographic groups might vote, based on a large sample of 100,000 interviews conducted over the previous six days.

First time around, the MRP was conducted after the Conservatives had largely squeezed out the Brexit party, but before Labour staged a modest recovery, when it, in turn, began to squeeze out the Lib Dems. The second poll shows precisely the impact that mini revival has had.

This time Labour is predicted to make two gains, both in London, in Putney and Chipping Barnet, although still not any of the seats where the party has had a strong ground game with activists pounding the seats: Southampton Itchen, Hastings and Rye and Chingford and Wood Green.

As for the Conservatives, the poll predicts gains largely from Labour in the Midlands and north of England, including Sedgefield in County Durham (once held by Tony Blair), Bolsover, where Dennis Skinner is running again, as well as seats like Barrow-in-Furness and Ashfield in Derbyshire, where Labour insiders are already conceding the cause is all but lost.

 

But it is the Lib Dem figures that are particularly eye opening. YouGov thinks the party could overturn a 9,999 majority in Winchester, pick up the South Cambridgeshire seat where Heidi Allen was briefly an MP for the party – and even predicts the party is in touching distance of foreign secretary Dominic Raab in Esher and Walton, where the majority was 23,298.

If that proved to be the case, one might expect more dramatic results elsewhere. It suggests that the traditional Conservative vote is more vulnerable in the commuter belt than previously thought. But that is also seductive speculation: the poll’s principal conclusion is that Johnson is heading for a close win.

With a day to go until polls open on Thursday, two important stories have become clear. Will traditional Labour voters continue to turn their backs on the party led by Jeremy Corbyn? Could there be a late movement away from the Tories in London and the south east? Either way, it sets up a nerve-jangling finish.

TheGuardian UK

Edicha Ocholli, suspected to be the leader of political thugs that burnt to death, Mrs Salome Achejuigu, the PDP women leader, has confessed that they carried out the dastardly act because he had been nursing a grudge against the woman before the November 16 governorship election.

Ocholli, who spoke with newsmen shortly after being paraded yesterday, confessed that he was an All Progressives Congress (APC) thug who mobilized other thugs from Ejule in Ofu Local Government Area to set the house on fire and reigned mayhem shortly after the election.

Mrs Salome Abu, the women leader of Wada Aro Campaign Council, Ochadamu Ward, was said to have been burnt alive in her residence when she was resting after treatment from an injury on the election day.

While reacting to the act, the spokesman, Wada/Aro Campaign Council, Faruk Adejoh-Audu,  had claimed that the thugs, shooting sporadically, arrived Abuh’s house at about 2pm on the fateful day  and surrounded the house, blocking every exit and escape from outside.

 

“They then poured petrol on the building and set it ablaze as other terrorized villagers watched from hiding. She reportedly attempted to escape through a window but was prevented by the metal burglary proof and gunshots with bullets raining in her direction.

“The blood thirsty thugs waited, shooting and watching with relish while Mrs Abuh cried from inside the inferno until her voice died out. They reportedly left only when the entire house and Mrs Abuh had been burnt to ashes,” he was quoted to have said

But the police commissioner, Hakeem Busari, while parading the suspect with five others, said the whole crisis erupted when there was a misunderstanding between Gowon Simon and Awolu Zekeri, which led to the death of the latter.

He said the death of Zekeri led to the mobilization of some angry youths in the town, who moved to the house of Simon Abu, who is an uncle to the suspect where the 60-years-woman was burnt to death.

The CP, who said other suspects are on the run, however, added that as soon as investigation is completed, the suspects will be arraigned in court.

He gave the names of other suspects, who claimed they were only arrested differently as robbers and not killers of Abuh as Haruna, Egbunu, Alido, Attai and Eje.

 

sun

‘Forgive me’ — Fayose begs aggrieved PDP members in Ekiti
 
 

Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti, on Tuesday sought forgiveness from members of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who may be aggrieved by any of his actions in the past to forgive him.

According to NAN, Fayose pleaded for forgiveness in his Afao-Ekiti home during a peace meeting he convened with party members across the 16 local government areas of the state.

The former governor apologised to all aggrieved members who he said he might have wronged while in government.

He said the PDP must be repositioned ahead of future elections in the state, adding that nothing should be too much a sacrifice for anyone to make.

“We are on a mission to reposition the party because truly we need a new attitude as members of this party, “he said.

“We must tell ourselves the truth that there is nothing to share in failure and we must join hands to achieve something tangible.

“I know some persons are aggrieved and I know we are humans. I apologise to all those that I have offended.

“Let us come together in unity for this our party not to die in this state. That is my priority as the leader.

“I am doing this after one year of leaving office just to allow the present All Progressives Congress (APC) to display what they have for the people and you can all see for yourselves.

“I am not here for my selfish interest but just to ensure this party does not fail.”

The former governor, who used the meeting to officially congratulate Biodun Olujimi on her victory as the lawmaker representing Ekiti-south senatorial district, noted that she remained a leader of the party in the state.

“Everybody should come back to the party. I am open to reconciliation,” he said.

“If Senator Biodun Olujimi calls you for meeting tomorrow, go there and listen to her. All of us are leaders , don’t let us factionalise this party.

“I am congratulating her and I don’t have any issue with her and I am sorry for what happened in the past.”

 

TheCable

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 06:24

Buhari’s lawlessness: Our stand

“As a symbolic demonstration of our protest against autocracy and military-style repression, PUNCH (all our print newspapers, The PUNCH, Saturday PUNCH, Sunday PUNCH, PUNCH Sports Extra, and digital platforms, most especially Punchng.com) will henceforth prefix Buhari’s name with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s, Major General, and refer to his administration as a regime, until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law.”

The entire country and a global audience are rightly scandalised by the unfolding saga over Omoyele Sowore and the unruliness of the SSS and the government; but it is only a pattern, a reflection of the serial disregard of the Buhari regime for human rights and its battering of other arms of government and our democratic institutions. PUNCH views this tendency and its recent escalation with serious concern, knowing as the great thinker, Edmund Burke, said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Nigeria had trod a path, a veritable obstacle course, where repression, especially under military jackboots, was a malignant presence and this attracted heroic resistance by ordinary people, civil society groups and the press. But Nigerians have lately become lethargic, divided by ethnic and sectarian sentiments and weakened by widespread poverty brought on by a rapacious political class and bad governance.

PUNCH will not adopt the self-defeating attitude of many Nigerians looking the other way after each violation of rights and attacks on the citizens, the courts, the press and civic society, including self-determination groups lawfully exercising their inalienable rights to peaceful dissent. This regime’s actions and assaults on the courts, disobedience of court orders and arbitrary detention of citizens reflect its true character of the martial culture. Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) ran a ham-fisted military junta in 1984/85 and old habits obviously run deep.  Until he and his repressive regime purge themselves of their martial tendency therefore, PUNCH will not be a party to falsely adorning it with a democratic robe, hence our decision to label it for what it is – an autocratic military-style regime run by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

Sowore’s travails are symptomatic: having ignored court orders granting him bail, the SSS, after much pressure following 125 days in captivity, released him only to stage a GESTAPO-style raid on the court where the journalist was standing trial. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim el-Zakzakky and his wife have spent over three years in detention in violation of court orders granting them bail and ordering their release. A former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been held in detention since 2015 in defiance of several court orders, including one by the ECOWAS appellate court that declared his continued incarceration illegal. Under Buhari, the SSS has become a monstrous and repressive secret police, acting often with impunity. Buhari bears responsibility for the state of repression because, as president, he can stop it today.

But the SSS is not alone. The Nigeria Police, whose notoriety predates Buhari’s second coming, has continued its serial abuse of human rights and is ever available to officials who routinely deploy police officers from the mundane abuse of sirens in traffic to arbitrary arrest and torture of victims. The police and military fail to understand that peaceful agitation and the right to associate are fundamental rights.

This situation is eerily familiar: as military head of state, Buhari’s appointee who headed the National Security Organisation, as the SSS was then known, Lawal Rafindadi, unleashed a reign of terror on Nigerians, featuring arbitrary arrests and torture in cells described by inmates as chambers of horror. Under the infamous Decree 2, agents had pre-signed detention papers, court orders were ignored and ouster clauses were inserted in decrees, while the press was specifically targeted with the infamous Decree 4 under which Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were jailed.

Returning as an elected president, Buhari has followed the same template, appointing Lawal Daura as Director-General of the SSS, who re-enacted the Rafindadi playbook by his treatment of Dasuki and el-Zakzakky, among others, raided the homes of judges and twice deployed armed SSS heavies to foil the arrest of two former security chiefs by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Nigerian Navy authorities similarly ignored court orders to release Navy Captain Dada Labinjo, who they detained for over a year until his recent release on bail; Nigerian Army too detains suspects interminably on the grounds of being terrorism suspects.

Some governors have borrowed from this nefarious model, deploying security agents and perverting the law to punish critics and journalists. Critics, Dadiyata Idris and Stephen Kefas, have been arrested and arraigned. Agba Jalingo is facing a treason charge for offending the Cross River State Government. Jones Abiri, a local publisher in Bayelsa State, has been charged with terrorism while, in Delta State, two journalists are facing criminal defamation charges.

The regime’s Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, forgetting how, as opposition spokesman in 2014, he was harassed by the SSS and accused of “loitering,” has been vigorously pressing for anti-hate speech laws to restrict the social media. Abdullahi Sabi, a senator, along with others, has re-presented a hate-speech bill: their sole purpose is to insulate officials from criticism and compel unquestioned acceptance of Buhari’s draconian misrule. 

Under the law, suspects cannot be held beyond 48 hours except by a court order. But the regime observes this in the breach. Yet, Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and other treaties guaranteeing fundamental rights. The 1999 Constitution also spells out basic rights. But the regime chooses which rights or court orders to respect or obey. This is unacceptable. Critical segments of the society have been assaulted, silenced or compromised. It is time, as a Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has strongly advocated, for civil society to rejuvenate itself and send the message to Buhari to “rein in his wild dogs of disobedience.” From the United States has come a message from the Department of State, two senators and Congress telling the Buhari regime to stop its shocking affront to the rule of law, reminding the General that “respect for the rule of law, judicial independence, political and media freedom, and due process are key tenets of democracy.” 

Nigeria has had more than its fair share of draconian rulers, whether in military or civil garb, but none has succeeded in breaking our resilience and irrepressible spirit. This regime will not prove to be an exception. Nigeria, and Nigerians, will overcome. The strong desire of our people to enjoy the unfettered freedoms guaranteed by the constitution and the rule of law, including the freedom to speak freely and assemble peacefully, will again outlive, outlast and crush the spirit of despotism.

 

Buhari can still redeem himself and his out-of-control security agents and reclaim his past facade of tolerance. When Daura brazenly inserted himself in politics by recklessly sending armed masked SSS enforcers to besiege the National Assembly, as acting President, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo promptly sacked him and had him arrested. Buhari should similarly distance himself and his regime from the lawlessness and impunity of the current SSS DG, Yusuf Bichi, by dismissing him, ordering the release of all victims of illegal detention and compelling obedience to court orders. The SSS has not been efficient in the war against terror; it should perform its primary duty to safeguard the country. As a product of statute, its loyalty should be to the country, not to temporary occupiers of public office.

The regime’s repression cannot succeed but will further polarise the society and weaken national cohesion.  The Nigerian Bar Association has vowed to defend the sanctity of judicial authority, while Soyinka has warned that disregard for court orders could beget desperation and civil disobedience. Nigerians need to stop their supine acquiescence to oppression and learn to stand up for their rights as many are doing around the world, using all peaceful and legal means, including the right to protest and of peaceful assembly. It is Dasuki, el-Zakzakky, Sowore and others today, who knows who is next if repression is not resisted?

 

As a symbolic demonstration of our protest against autocracy and military-style repression, PUNCH (all our print newspapers, The PUNCH, Saturday PUNCH, Sunday PUNCH, PUNCH Sports Extra, and digital platforms, most especially Punchng.com) will henceforth prefix Buhari’s name with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s, Major General, and refer to his administration as a regime, until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law.

 

 

- Punch Editorial

 

..New Chair for AMCON, Edward Adamu, too

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday requested the Senate to confirm the appointment of Muhammad Mamman Nami, from North Central, as the new Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Buhari also asked the Senate to confirm the nomination of Edward Lametek Adamu, as the Chairman of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).

Senate President Ahmad Lawan read Buhari’s separate letters for the two positions at plenary.

Buhari also named other members of the board of the FIRS in his letter.

They are: James Yakwen Ayuba (North Central), Ado Danjuma (North West), Adam Baba Mohammed (North East), A. Ikeme Osakwe (South East), Adewale Ogunyomade (South West) and Ehile Adetola Aigbangbee (South South).

The representatives of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) also named by the President are: Ladidi Bara’atu Mohammed (Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation), Godwin Emefiele (Central Bank of Nigeria) and Fatima Z. Hayatu (Ministry of Finance).

 

Others include Maagbe S. Adaa (Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission), Umar Ajiya (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation), Deputy Comptroller General T.M. Isah (Nigeria Customs Service) and the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission.

It could be recalled that President Buhari on Monday named a tax consultant, Mr Nami, as the new chairman of the FIRS.

This followed the expiration of the tenure of Mr Babatunde Fowler.

Fowler has since handed over the affairs of the FIRS to the most senior director in the agency pending the confirmation of Nami and other members of the FIRS’ board by the Senate.

 

 

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 11:30

Real reason DSS is after Sowore, by Falana

Omoyele Sowore
Omoyele Sowore

Activist-lawyer Mr Femi Falana on Monday revealed “the real reason” the Department of State Services (DSS)  was  prosecuting the convener of #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowore,  and his  co-defendant, Olawale Bakare.

Falana linked the defendants’ trial to the exposure of corrupt practices by some  government officials  through Sowore’s news medium, Sahara Reporters.

 

He spoke in Lagos during the public presentation of the third edition of the ‘Compendium of High profile corruption cases in Nigeria’ published by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation.

The Compendium chronicles the country’s biggest corruption cases, some lasting longer than 12 years.

The activist lawyer had on Sunday  criticized The Presidency for justifying Sowore’s treatment by the DSS.

The Presidency, through the  Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, had said, “Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.

“He did so on television, and from a privileged position as the owner of a widely read digital newspaper run from the United States.”

 

But Falana said: “When we were growing up, it was almost a crime or for those of us who were religious, it was a sin to tell a lie. But when a government uses the apparatus of the state to lie, it becomes a very difficult assignment. I’ve been very busy all day trying to expose the lies told by the government over the weekend, because nobody can justify the gangsterism that took place in court last Friday.”

Falana was referring to the DSS invasion of a Federal High Court, Abuja in an  attempt to re-arrest Sowore.

“You can’t be producing books like this, this is hate speech,” he said, praising HEDA for publishing the compendium.

He added, “… When they are talking of hate speech, it’s not about insulting somebody, it’s about exposing corruption. Exposing injustice in our country, exposing criminality and exposing the massive violations of the rights of our people, that is what they mean by hate speech.

“Hate speech is when you expose corruption and they believe that could incite the people against the government. That’s why they are charging Sowore, it’s not about that protest, it’s about Sahara Reporters.

“Garba Shehu said it yesterday.  Shehu  said ‘This guy(Sowore) is not just an ordinary politician, he has a powerful medium.’ He meant Sahara Reporters, so, they felt that if Sowore is allowed to enjoy his restricted freedom (bail), he may still continue to publish Sahara Reporters, so let’s put him in, whether the heavens will collapse or not. That’s what is going on.”

Falana also revealed that he got accommodation for Sowore and Bakare in one of Abuja’s best hotels with government’s  money following their release on bail last Thursday.

He said he lodged them at the Transcorp Hilton after receiving the N100, 000 fine imposed on DSS’s lawyer by the FHC.

He said,” We are making progress. In fact, it was the money we used to get an accommodation for them (Sowore and Bakare) in Transcorp Hilton. You know that’s the best hotel in town, I put them there, with the government money.”

He accused the DSS of deliberately prolonging Sowore’s trial and detention by refusing to tender in court, its witness statements. He added that  the Presidency was also subjecting Sowore to media trial.

Falana said: “But they can’t go on like that indefinitely. If they are unable to go on next time, we are going to ask the judge to strike out the case.”

 

TheNation

Jega: EFCC needs to show there are no ‘untouchables’ in fight against corruption
 

Attahiru Jega, ex-chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), says the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) needs to show that there are no ”sacred cows” in the fight against corruption.

Jega said this on Monday while reviewing a book launched by the EFCC in Abuja.

The launch of the book entitled, ‘curbing electoral spending’ was to mark the 2019 international anti-corruption day organised by the commission in collaboration with the Nigeria Shippers Council, maritime and transport stakeholders.

He asked African countries to restrategise their approach to fighting corruption.

He commended the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies for their effort in tackling financial crimes in Nigeria.

But he said there is a need for the agencies to intensify their efforts.

He asked them to shun bias in their prosecution of persons alleged to have engaged in corrupt acts.

“Here in Nigeria, where corruption is in the increase compared to other African countries, we need to take the fight seriously,” Jega said.

“It is a day for sober reflection for us and for reviewing our experiences and restrategise to find better ways and means of improving the successes in the fight against corruption,” he said.

“While we commend them, they also need to intensify their efforts in the fight against corruption because we see that the more effort that is made, the more difficult it becomes.

“The EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies need to continue to demonstrate that there are no sacred cows in the fight against corruption.

“We will want to see a rededicated effort in terms of effective utilisation in governance of resource saved from corruption.”

A recent report by the the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said there was a drop in the prevalence of corruption nationwide in 2019.

Babatunde Fowler, FIRS Chairman

Babatunde Fowler, FIRS Chairman

President Muhammadu Buhari may have left the immediate past chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Tunde Fowler, shocked with the replacement Monday of the revenue chief.

Mr Fowler on Monday wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, asking to be allowed to continue his work at the helm of the FIRS to “consolidate and build on the achievements” which he highlighted in an attachment to his letter.

Mr Fowler’s letter, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, was dated December 9, the expiration date of his tenure. Rather than grant Mr Fowler’s request, however, President Buhari hours later announced the appointment of Muhammad Nami as the new chief executive of the FIRS, thereby discharging Mr Fowler.

Mr Nami’s appointment is subject to the approval of the Senate.

A graduate of Bayero University, Kano, Mr Nami was appointed as a member, Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Stolen Assets in November 2017 by Mr Buhari.

After his removal, on Monday, Mr Fowler accepted his fate and thanked the president. “There is nothing automatic about having a second term,” the former tax chief told his former colleagues, according to a statement by Wahab Gbadamosi, the FIRS spokesperson.

The thought of a non-automatic second term did not, however, deter Mr Fowler from requesting one.

The Request

In his letter seeking the renewal of his appointment, Mr Fowler highlighted that his tenure was coming to an end but he wanted an extension.

“I write to notify the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that my first tenure as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Service (FIRS) ends today 9th December 2019,” wrote Mr Fowler in his letter to Mr Mustapha.

“In view of the above, I wish to present myself for reappointment for a second term. This is consistent with the provisions of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007 and would grant me the opportunity to consolidate and build on the achievements we have recorded in the past four years,” he wrote.

It is not clear why Mr Fowler waited till his last day in office to write the letter. The spokesperson for the FIRS simply said “that was his remit” when asked why Mr Fowler waited till his last day in office to write the request.

However, months before Mr Fowler’s request for reappointment, his fate appeared to have been sealed following an exchange of letters he had with the powerful Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari.

Query

In August, the presidency, in a a letter signed by Mr Kyari, had 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,” read Mr Kyari’s letter stamp-dated August 8, 2019.

Checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that since 2015, the FIRS under Mr Fowler has not been able to meet collection targets, a different trend from the preceding years.

In 2015, FIRS set N4.7 trillion target but was only able to make N3.7 trillion in the actual collection.

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.

Worried by the variances, the presidency asked Mr Fowler for an explanation.

“Accordingly, 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 wrote.

 

Analysis of Nigeria’s tax statistics showed that before Mr Buhari and Mr Fowler came in 2015, the only year FIRS could not meet its collection target was 2006 since the year 2000.

But in the query served Mr Fowler, the presidency only mentioned 2012 to 2014.

“Further we have observed that actual collections for the period between 2015 and 2017 were significantly worse than what was collected between 2012 and 2014,” stated Mr Kyari. “Accordingly, you are kindly invited to explain the reasons for the poor collections.”

The query to Mr Fowler came weeks after an anti-corruption agency, EFCC, detained top officials of the FIRS for several days as part of a corruption investigation.

That investigation is still ongoing by the EFCC.

All facts not considered

In his reply, Mr Fowler, suggested that 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, in general terms, he told the presidency FIRS under him has performed better regarding specific non-oil tax types, such as VAT and CIT.

He associated the general lower collection since 2015 to 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.”

He said FIRS has control of non-oil revenue collection, which “grew by N1,304.20 trillion or 21% between the period 2016 to 2018,” unlike oil revenue collection which is “subject to more external forces.”

He further explained that oil price fall and low production caused the variances between the country’s target collections and actual collections since the beginning of the present administration.

“Notwithstanding government efforts to diversify the economy; oil revenues remain an important component of all revenues accruable to the Federation,” Mr Fowler said. “The crude oil price fell from an average of $113.72, $110.98 and 100.40 per barrel in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to $52.65, $43.80 and $54.08 in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“There was also a reduction in crude oil production from 2.31 mbpd, 2.18 mbpd and 2.20 mbpd in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to 2.12 mbpd, 1.81 mbpd, and 1.88 mbpd in 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.”

He added that “a troubled economy is associated with his tax collection performance”.

“The Nigerian economy also went into recession in the second quarter of 2016 which slowed down the general economic activities,” he said. “Tax revenue collection (CIT and VAT) being a function of economic activities were negatively affected but actual collections of the above two taxes were still higher in 2016 to 2018 than in 2012 to 2014,” he said.

“During the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, GDP grew by 4.3%, 4.4% and 6.3%, while in 2015, 2016 and 2017, GDP grew by 2.7%, -1.6% and 1.9%, respectively. The tax revenue grew as the economy recovered in the second quarters of 2017.”

PREMIUM TIMES checks shows that between 2012 and 2014, CIT revenue was N2.9 trillion and N3.5 trillion between 2016 and 2018. Also, VAT between 2016 and 2018 was N2.9 trillion, higher than N2.3 that was gained between 2012 and 2014.

Mr Fowler said the “strategies and initiatives” adopted for the collection of VAT under him was responsible for the increase over the 2012 to 2014 period.

“In 2012, the VAT collected was N802 billion compared to N1.1 trillion in 2018,” he said. “This increase is attributable to various initiatives such as ICT innovations, continuous taxpayer education, taxpayer enlightenment, etc embarked upon by the Service.”

 

PMnews