Babatunde Fowler, immediate past executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), has expressed hopes that his work as a tax man will be remembered.
Speaking on Monday evening during a handover ceremony to Abiodun Aina, the coordinating director of the domestic taxes group, Fowler thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for the privilege he had to serve the nation.
“I would like you to keep the flag flying, but I hope that sometime when I visit, my picture will be somewhere on the wall,” Wahab Gbadamosi, the head of communications and servicom department, quoted him to have said.
“For those of you we are leaving behind, I don’t want to get too scriptural. But I believe that anything that you do, that helps your fellow human being, your neighbour is a blessing. And I believe that this job that we have been given is a job that will continue to help all Nigerians and all people residing in Nigeria.
“There is nothing automatic about having a second term. Some of you might say it’s a big surprise. It’s a privilege to serve one’s country. And if you have the privilege of serving your country for one term and you believe you have done your best, you have to thank God for that.
“With change, sometimes there is resistance. People will not understand the vision, will not understand the reason for the change. But hope in leaving FIRS, I’ve left behind something, something, positive, that each and every one of you can build on.”
Fowler, who was also the former chairman of the Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), said the mandate of the tax agency is not just to collect revenue.
“We have got a mandate. That mandate is not just to collect revenue. It’s a mandate to collect the maximum amount of revenue for all concerned for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“We have the opportunity to show the world that Nigeria has a lot to offer. It was during this period that we had a top director, representing Nigeria and the world at the OECD. It was within this period that Nigeria, for the first time chaired ATAF (African Tax Administration Forum), for two years running.
“It was within this period that Nigeria through your support was appointed as the 1st vice-chairman of the United Nations committee of tax experts.”
In his remarks, Aina, the acting executive chairman, promised to steady the ship until the senate confirms the new board.
“You have done a lot within the space of four years. You have transformed FIRS. You have modernised it. When we look back in 2015, the collection was about N3.3 trillion. At the end of 2018, with your leadership, we were able to move to N5.32 trillion. That was the highest collection ever, in the annals of the FIRS,” he said of Fowler.
“But like you also mentioned in your speech, change is usually resisted. And so you stepped on toes. That is normal. Leadership is not a popularity contest. And I’m sure you know that very well. And that was why you were focused on carrying out the mandate that was given to you. I can tell you on behalf of my colleagues here that we will miss you. You have left a very big shoe behind.”
On Monday, the president appointed Muhammad Nami as the new FIRS chairman.
His appointment awaits senate confirmation.