BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA -Embattled former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Babatunde Fowler, has appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for the privilege of serving the nation in the last four years.

He has also expressed gratitude to staff of the revenue agency for their support in achieving set goals during his time at Service.

“I like to thank the President for giving me this opportunity of service. It’s a privilege of service to your country. But at the same time, I believe I leave behind a good crop of directors that can move this organisation forward”, Fowler said.

Speaking while handing over to the Coordinating Director Domestic Taxes Group, Abiodun Aina on Monday evening Boardroom at the FIRS following the Presidency’s announcement a new Chairman and Board for the FIRS, Fowler acknowledged that “change is constant.  It is normal that people will always resist change.”

The immediate past FIRS boss, waxing biblical in his speech, said; “Let me thank all of you who are here for what we have been able to do for our country. From the driver to the senior staff, everybody played a role. But with change, sometimes there is resistance. People will not understand the vision, will not understand the reason for the change. But I hope in leaving FIRS, I’ve left behind something, something, positive, that each and every one of you can build on.

“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.

“There is nothing automatic about having a second term. Some of you might say it’s a big surprise. It a privileged 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.”

According to Fowler, “For those of you we are leaving behind, Ï do not 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.”

Further reeling out the Service landmark achievements in the last four years, Fowler said; “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.”

He said with the staff unwavering support, the period also saw Nigeria’s emergence as the first Vice Chairman of the United Nations Committee of Tax Experts.

“So, we have a lot going for us. I like you to keep the flag flying, But I hope that sometime, when I visit, my picture will be somewhere on the wall..

“For people who have known me for a while, one thing is that some of them refer to me as a shark. I like to keep people on their toes. Some of you might have thought that I don’t appreciate your contributions. But some of you… might have been able to do things better. And part of my role is to bring out that potentials in you. And I hope I have been able to do that. I am content.

“I will say that for the incoming Chairman, for the incoming Board of Directors, give them the support. The vision, I believe, is the same vision that we have. But how to go about it may differ. Open yourselves up to change. 

“At this point, it gives me extreme privilege, to hand over the running of this organisation until the Senate approves the  new Board, to someone who has been here, someone who understands the working of the FIRS, and someone who has been part of the change. 

“And I believe that you will give him the support, not even the support you have given me. But more support. SO that when he hands over the organisation to the new board, they will see that this organisation is one that shares the same vision, and of course believes in his mandate. With these few words, I like to say it’s a pleasure working with all of you.

“Some of you might have thought that I don’t like you. But I assure you it was work. But I believe in this room, we have got a lot of talent regardless of what happens, keep the flag flying.

“On this note, Mr. Aina, I have the privilege of handing over FIRS to you. God bless FIRS. Long live the Republic of Nigeria.

In his remarks, Acting Executive Chairman, FIRS, Abiodun Aina, who spoke in glowing terms about Fowler, promised to steady the ship of the Service further pending the assumption of office by the newly appointed Board.

“Thank you very much Mr, Chairman, my boss, my brother, and my good friend Sir. As you hand over to me I say what I’m I running. You have fought a good fight. You laid a very u solid foundation.

“Within the intervening period that I will be holding forte, I promise you to steady the ship, by the grace of God. You have done a lot within the space of four years.”

Admitting that the Service has done a great deal in the last four years, Aina further said; “You have transformed FIRS. You have modernised it. There has been a lot of innovations. And under you we have achieved great heights. 

“When we look back in 2015, 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 FIRS. You brought dynamism to FIRS.”

He said Fowler’s tenure witnessed the introduction of “so many programmes that repositioned FIRS: Tax Amnesty Programme, implemented VAIDS; increased the number of taxpayers nationwide to over 20 million in a spate of four years; began placing lien on the account of taxpayers to ensure that each capable corporate taxpayers pay his/her dues; and fostered collaboration among the states through the Joint Tax Board.”

Aina listed other laudable strides as robust information sharing among states and  launching the JTB TIN so that states might have access to data for tax purposes, deepened FIRS’ embrace of technology for tax purposes and many more.

“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. We will do all we can to ensure that we will keep the flag flying. Thank you very much for what you have done”, he said.

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