By Danladi Ndayebo
When the news broke that President Muhammadu Buhari has reconstituted the Board of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with Mr. Mohammed Nami as chairman-designate via an executive communication to the Senate plenary on 9 December 2019, Nigerians hailed the decision as well deserving.
Any keen observer of the torrents of conversations on the appointment on various media platforms will see that aggregate public response indicate high expectations for the new board; citizens’ readiness to engage and collaborate with FIRS as it discharges the onerous task of growing the economy; strengthening revenue collection and accountability mechanism.
Also, a cursory look at views and opinions available in the public space on the new FIRS Board indicate that most Nigerians endorsed President Buhari’s choice of Mr Nami for the FIRS top job. There is a congruence of thought that his coming at this point in history will help to reposition the service in delivering its mandate as the nation’s key revenue agency.
Given the antecedent of the chairman designate, there is no doubt that a new era beckons at the nation’s tax manager, the FIRS. The Service now has an opportunity to connect with tax payers – citizens, corporate entities and indeed all stakeholders itching for improved service delivery in tax administration in Nigeria.
Going through Mr. Nami’s resume, it is reassuring that his job is well cut-out for him as he will hit the ground running to take FIRS to greater height after confirmation by the Senate. A consummate professional horned in the best tradition of integrity, transparency, and accountability, he has courage of convictions that has stood him out in his professional career over the last three decades. A trained tax, accounting and auditing professional, he will deliver on this new national assignment with utmost sense of responsibility as he did in previous tasks.
He is a graduate of Bayero University Kano and Ahmadu University Zaria where he obtained a Bachelor degree in Sociology in 1991 and a Masters of Business Administration degree in 2004. He is a fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Institute of Debt Recovery Practitioners of Nigeria, Associate member, Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered), and Association of National Accountants of Nigeria. In 2017, he was appointed by President Buhari as a member of a three-member Audit Committee on Recovery and Management of Stolen Assets set up to audit recovered public assets.
Mr. Nami has served in different capacities in various national assignments in the past, where he delivered beyond expectations, earning him admiration of the people. Today, the fruits of those little efforts have culminated into higher call to serve by the President to lead the new FIRS board.
Being a leader of men and resource, he will bring to bear a renewed sense of commitment to duty among FIRS staff; shared vision and mission that will drive FIRS towards achieving set targets and deliverables for the benefit of the Nigerian people. Also, he will restore staff confidence and put in place a well-motivated workforce vital to delivering high impact results and productivity.
FIRS plays strategic roles in the architecture of nation’s political economy, including actualising President Buhari administration’s commitment to move 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years by expanding the tax net, institutionalising best practices through efficient revenue collection system and strengthened engagement with citizens and corporate entities.
The FIRS board is coming on the heels of the renewed drive by President Buhari’s commitment to transparency, accountability, and open governance framework hinged on patriotism and selfless service. The new board from the onset will key into the vision of the President to ensure that the national prosperity is paramount in service delivery for all citizens.
One core issue that FIRS board under Mr Nami’s leadership would need to focus on is how to restore the glorious era of the service, with a well-motivated staff ready to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour; and the restoring citizen’s confidence in FIRS as a service driven organisation.
The board should aspire to restore the Ifueko Omoigui pioneering era replete with overriding aspirations of building a revenue agency that delivers on shared goals to promote accountable, open and transparent leadership in the sector. Until Monday, when the tenure of the immediate past Chairman of FIRS, Mr. Babatunde Fowler expired, there were concerns that the machinery of the agency had long been rendered unworkable, and put against the classical definition of a government organisation.
Career progression is said to have been thrown into the dust bin, as more than 500 Senior staff who passed promotion examinations from 2016 to 2019 have remained stagnated and some frustrated out of service. Some directors are also said to have resigned in anger when management compelled them to knuckle under the orders of rookies who were recruited into the service through the back door.
To put it mildly, FIRS did not run like a proper government organization in the last four years—decisions were taken unilaterally, meetings were not held regularly and memos were not followed up, if they existed at all. The complaints coming out of Revenue House are just too many and no one can be under any illusion that Nami is inheriting a badly run-down revenue agency. As the new FIRS helmsman settles down, it is expected that many of these burning issues will be addressed.
Nigerians look forward to better days ahead as the National Assembly sets date to confirm President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees to the board of Federal Inland Revenue Service led by Mr Nami.
It is pertinent to note that the President has taken yet another step to reposition the country’s revenue collection agency to consolidate the gains of the administration’s efforts to scale up economic activities through a robust tax administration in Nigeria. The appointment of new FIRS chairman, Mr Nami is coming at the right time with definitive goal of restoring the integrity of the service.
Ndayebo lives in Abuja