Holding a public office in Nigeria often catapults the public office holder to full public glare where he is rationally and irrationally criticised for every action he takes, irrespective of whatever consequences of such criticisms to him or her vis-a-vis the duties and responsibilities he or she is saddled with.
This is especially when the criticisms emanate from sources where facts and genuine information are expected by the general public – the custodians of the court of public opinion.
It is on record that the present leadership of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, had under the able stewardship of its Chairman, Muhammad Nami, achieved a remarkable feat of generating N4.2 trillion in the first nine months of 2021.
Radiating immense capacity and competence, Mr Nami, when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Finance at the public hearing on the 2022-2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), proudly announced that the agency targets N10.1trn revenue in 2022.
Providing extensive explanation, Nami said that the N10.1 trillion was the global figure projected to be generated and remitted to the federal government in 2022 by the FIRS, as he underscored the cardinal importance of the agency to budget realisation as its responsible as well as assessing, collecting and accounting for tax and other revenues accruing to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
In essence, FIRS plays a very vital role in every budget cycle, as it always brings funds to the nation’s basket before subsequently sharing according to the expenditure framework, hence the need to provide for the effective running of the agency in order to sustain the tempo and meet the projected target in 2022 as proclaimed by the chairman.
Viewed in the light of the statutory mandates of the agency, a recent report by one of Nigeria’s leading dailies (Punch newspaper) alleging that the country’s leading tax-collecting agency is spending N2.8 billion on uniforms and N550 million meals, is outrageously misleading and capable of denting the image of not only the chairman but the entire agency and its staff.
The Punch report aroused the urgent need to put some records straight. It should be obvious to everyone that the reference the newspaper made to the budget for uniforms is not only false but also a misrepresentation of the facts.
In the first place, it is not true that the Service had delivered the Budget Estimate to the two chambers of the National Assembly. The draft budget estimate was submitted only to the House Committee on Finance.
Also, its claim that “the total budget of the FIRS stands at N228 billion” is blatantly untrue. Again, what the newspaper referred to as uniform is the Corporate Outfit (Dressing Allowance) enjoyed by all the staff. Similarly, the N17.8 billion being bandied by the newspaper as an estimate for miscellaneous expenses is grossly false.
The correct figure is N11.36 billion, which represents the estimate for key administrative expenses for the whole year that the Service proposed to the National Assembly being an amount that would be incurred when approved, in respect of its over 500 operating offices and functions as well as for its 11,300 workforce.
For clarity, the estimated expenses are for medical expenses for over 11,300 staff, publicity, adverts a and taxpayers education, welfare packages and festivity allowance to staff, corporate outfit grant (dressing allowance to staff), honorarium and sitting allowance for staff/stakeholders, sporting activities, and postages and courier services.
The public is, therefore, to note that the amount budgeted for the above-listed items represents merely 5.26% of the total budget estimate for the year, 2022.” The statement read in parts.
Equally, with these details of well-intentioned provisions in the budgetary estimates which were put together by the relevant departments in the Service, it is crystal clear that the Management is consciously committed to quality service delivery and staff welfare. Therefore, Management will continue to do everything within the limits of available resources to motivate and buoy up the morale of the staff.
As a revenue-generating agency, the Service remains strongly committed to its mandate of mobilising revenue for the three tiers of government.
The management, therefore, frowns on the uncharitable attempt to drag its well-wrought tax administration efforts into the murky waters of politics, as doing so would not serve any positive purpose.
Considering the sensitivity and delicate nature of FIRS operations according to its statutory mandate, it is the height of irresponsibility and ungratefulness on the part of any section of the Nigerian public to warpedly view the agency as conducting its financial dealings anywhere in the vicinity of impropriety.
The truth is told.
Hayatuddeen writes from Jalingo, Taraba state