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How Babatunde Fowler ruined FIRS – Group

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A group, Concerned Staff of FIRS, have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the atrocities and infractions allegedly perpetrated by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler.

In an open letter, the group advised President Buhari not to re-appoint Fowler because the FIRS boss had “unimaginably taken it back to the old dark period of inefficient and ineffective days.”

It also recommended that the activities of Fowler from the day he was appointed up to his last day in office should be investigated and brought to book for all infractions he had committed while holding sway as the Executive Chairman of FIRS, SR reports.

The group wrote, “One would have expected that his appointment would improve the hallmark achievements he met on the ground but the reverse is the case. The first seven months of his tenure as the chief executive of FIRS has led to a series of abuse/violation of laid down processes and procedures, a flagrant disobedience to established rules, policies and laws, a total disrespect to the leadership in various coordinating groups, departments and other positions within the service and a total collapse of the entire system.

“The noble and professional institution (FIRS) which was left behind by his predecessors has completely been politicized and has now become a Mecca or Jerusalem of some sorts to politicians and parasitic contractors.

“This rascality was further heightened by the claim that the current Vice President is his (Fowler’s) friend and a school mate and for this reason, he could abuse the due process and get away with it. In saner climes, his relationship with the vice president must propel him to respect all known processes, procedures, laws and constituted authority while discharging his duties and responsibilities as a public officer who would be held accountable for his actions and inactions. Sadly enough, the reverse is the case in FIRS.”

Other allegations against the FIRS boss included extravagant weekly spending on concerts and parties in Lagos, Port Harcourt and other major cities within and outside Nigeria, frivolous donations to organizations while staff entitlements for official engagements would take a long time to settle.

The FIRS staff claimed that Fowler had got away with what it termed corporate and institutional lies about FIRS performance, adding that while Fowler announced N1.5 trillion as tax revenue in the first quarter of the year, the sum of N1.07 trillion was the actual collection for the same period.

The letter partly reads, “Dear Mr President, there are so many disturbing atrocities perpetrated by Mr Fowler in FIRS which your attention must have been drawn to but we wish to also draw it to you again, sir. There is convincing evidence already presented to you for further action and others that may be presented to you for further investigations and for his possible prosecution. We strongly advise that these atrocities be made known to the Vice President because it is his name that is being used as a shield against investigation and prosecution for abusing his office.

“Others are the suspension of tax audit and case investigation functions in various field offices since January 2016 and the engagement of friends as FIRS consultants to carry out core tax functions of audit, investigations, taxpayers’ registrations and other ancillaries of the service. There is also the indiscriminate transfer of senior officers to non-existent offices and/or non-functional training schools nationwide.

“Continuous employment of new people unilaterally without recourse to established rules, processes and procedures for the recruitment exercise. There is no Staffing Needs Assessment carried out before recruiting the new staff. In 2019 alone, over 700 staff were brought in illegally.Sometimes appointment letters are brought to Mr Fowler to sign in the VIP lounge at the airport.

“Duplication and multiplicity of duties and responsibilities have become the order of the day in the Service. His verbal pronouncement at any meeting or forum has now become a policy statement. This is indeed an unfortunate nightmare currently existing in FIRS.

“Corruption has also become a phenomenon, a culture and a norm using all kinds of fronts in receiving gratifications from tax refund cases, contract awards, lien-on-accounts placement and even in employment.”

The group, therefore, advised President Buhari not to reappoint Fowler while adding that the composition of FIRS Board with quality minds and other institutional members are very important to drive the strategic implementation and values of the Nigerian tax system.

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INVESTIGATION

Publication threats: Billionaire bank debtors​ lobby CBN Gov to save faces​

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  • Our decision meant to avert another banking crisis – DMBs

 

Fresh information reaching The Witness has revealed that some top Nigerian billionaires are currently lobbying the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele to save their heads following threats by chief executive officers of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in Nigeria to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The Witness reliably gathered from inside sources that since the disclosure of the decision by the bank CEOs, some top moneybags have continued to pressure the apex bank and its head honcho to intervene in the decision of the lender to give them time to clear up their debts.

Aside from this development affecting their businesses, bank debtors are more uncomfortable with the idea of making their names public, especially at a trying time like this. They are deeply afraid that the policy may throw them out of business, especially for those of them who need foreign exchange to operate.

Chronic debtors, analysts say, are those debtors who are unwilling to repay their loans to the banks.

The decision which the DMB’s are ready to implement to the letter, is aimed at forestalling the growing amount of non-performing loans NPLs, in the books of financial institutions to avert another banking crisis in the country.

Recall, CEOs of DMBs across the country recently agreed to share details of chronic debtors and blacklist such.

The bankers made this known after a meeting held to discuss how some debtors have been allegedly using law enforcement agencies to harass and criminalize bank CEOs.

In a statement, the group said the affected debtors are not ready to repay their loans. The group spoke in Lagos after reviewing what it called the “harassment and criminalization of banks’ CEOs by law enforcement agencies.” It noted that chronic bank debtors were now in the habit of enlisting law enforcement agencies including police, judiciary and state security to harass and criminalize bank CEOs, saying this was unacceptable. “Notably, these loan defaulters are known to have abused court processes as well as using social media to propagate their smear campaign against the banks,” the group said.

A communique issued following the meeting noted that these activities by the law enforcement agencies and the bank debt defaulters were capable of adversely affecting the banking system vis-à-vis the CEOs’ reputation amongst international banks, destroy the economy, and called for these to be checked and managed.

In order to tackle what they see as an emerging threat to banking business in Nigeria, the committee outlined a five-step resolution of actions that banks would need to take. The resolutions and planned actions were arrived at after members discussed and considered different options for dealing with the issue.

Specifically, the banks’ CEOs said there was an urgent need for all banks to cooperate and collaborate to identify and ex-communicate chronic debt defaulters, noting that this goes beyond “publishing names of such defaulters in national media (which is inevitable), but involves all banks speaking with ‘one voice’ and sharing information about those entities, and refusing to do further business with them until they settle their obligations.”

To avoid the kind of crisis that rocked the banking sector 10 years ago, the CEOs urged all agencies and stakeholders to step up and help fight the inherent menace of chronic loan defaulters.

According to the CEOs, the banking industry is the backbone of the Nigerian economy, therefore, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders – regulators, police, judiciary, corporate organizations and media to help save it from activities of delinquent debtors.

Besides, the group resolved that all cases of defaults would be presented and passed through the Bankers’ Committee Ethics Committee just as it intends to work with legal councils and come up with ways and strategies to manage related cases effectively without disrupting businesses and the system.

In a recent publication, Access Bank had threatened to publish the names of customers refusing to settle their debts in national dailies.

In a statement, the bank had said it is acting in line with a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“All Access Bank Plc (including former Diamond Bank Plc) debtors are directed to pay up their past due obligations in order to avoid punitive actions being taken against them,” the bank said.

The statement added, “Please note that we shall publish our debtors’ names in newspapers in two weeks.

“Similarly, in the event that these obligations are not fulfilled, we shall take such further actions against such delinquent individuals and companies as we may consider necessary and shall relentlessly pursue full recovery of all our debts.”

While experts appear to condemn the act of borrowing and refusing to repay the loans, they are more afraid of the bad implication it could have on the macro economy.

Managing director/CEO at BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, in a chat with newsmen believes that since the CBN has autonomy it can take decisions in the best interest of the economy.

He, however, said the idea was good for the banks, but advised that caution should be applied in order to publish only names of those who actually owe.

”The autonomy of the Central Bank should have instrument autonomy which implies that the Central Bank should have unhindered freedom to decide on how best to achieve its mandate without any dictation from any quarters. If the Bankers’ Committee which the CBN chairs decides to publish the names of debtors, so be it.

“We just hope that in embarking on this name-and-shame approach, due care is exercised so that the names of actual debtors are published.

”We had an experience during the immediate past administration when a deluge of rebuttals and retractions followed an attempt to embark on similar exercise. We must avoid such embarrassments this time around.

“If names are to be published, due care must be exercised to ensure the names of only those culpable are published. It is embarrassing and unfair otherwise considering the potential damage to reputation such a move will occasion. It is not good for the creditors for their names to so published as most of these recalcitrant debtors are the juggernauts in our midst; the movers and shakers; the financiers of electoral campaigns who often think that because of their access to the powers that be they remain beyond the law.

”This is a last resort desperate measure meant to stem the wind of distress overtaking the banks leading to a harvest of bank failures. It is good for the banks generally as it has the effect of sanitizing the banks to restore them to sound health to continue to provide banking services, sustain the going concern and continue to return dividends to their many shareholders and stakeholders,” he concluded.

It would be recalled that the immediate-past CBN governor, now Emir Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had published names of those indebted to some of the banks that failed the second phase of the apex bank’s stress test in 2009.

Asset Management Company of Nigeria, AMCON had in 2013 called a governorship candidate in one of the South-south states of Nigeria a chronic debtor for his unwillingness to liquidate his debt to some banks.

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INVESTIGATION

Homeowners accuse CMB Building Company, its CEO Mbagwu of fraud, petition EFCC

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The residents of Pearl Garden Estate and Pearl Nuga Park Estate located at Sangotedo in Lekki/Ajah area of Lagos State have petitioned against the CMB Building Maintenance and Investment Company Ltd to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged fraudulent mortgage of some of their homes to secure unapproved bank loans.

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred representatives of CMB, a building and maintenance firm owned by Kelechukwu Mbagwu from maintaining the homes at Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The separate petitions dated May 28, 2019 and addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, were signed by Mr Patrick Olowokere, the President of Pearl Nuga Estate and Reverend Adesola Adebawo, President of Pearl Garden Estate respectively.

According to the petitioners, CMB obtained a mortgage from Wema Bank Plc using the affected homes at Pearl Nuga Estate as collateral without the knowledge or consent of the affected homeowners.

Image: Repossessed property at Pearl Gardens Estate from fraudulently-obtained bank loan

“The affected homeowners, namely; Bridget Eko, Osagie Aimiehnoho Jude, Mr Akinola Alabi, Mrs Oluwadara Alabi, Nosakhare Igbinobi and Amos Gaga, paid CMB for those houses to be built and had taken possession of their houses from CMB at different times.

“CMB and Mr Mbagwu fraudulently withheld the title deeds of the houses from the affected homeowners as it withheld those of several other homeowners within the estate,” they alleged in a petition duly acknowledged and signed by the EFCC, copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

However, the bank has begun a recovery of the six houses within the estate following the failure of CMB, the property developer, to repay the loan, according to the petitioners.

Similarly, Pearl Garden Estate also accused CMB of using the homes of four of their members — Mr and Mrs Michael Bassey, Mr Oyeleke Jegede, Mr Larry Amaraibi and one Mr Felix — who had already paid in full to allegedly obtain a N10 million loan from Diamond Bank (now Access Bank).

Meanwhile, the association of homeowners in the estates have barred staff or representatives of CMB from Pearl Nuga Park Estate and Pearl Garden Estate.

The petitioners said, “We have no other choice but to believe that other houses of our members and homeowners within the estates may be the subject of similar fraudulent mortgages.’’

Another resident, Mr A. Akeredolu, said: “Some of us have waited endlessly for the commencement of the ‘fictitious’ Pearl Royale Scheme, Pearl Garden Extension and Pearl Nuga Park.

“We paid for these in full since 2010 but have yet to be shown the location of our purchases, let alone the allocations.

“We know projects fail, but they have yet to make any official statement or promise of refund. These people are so bold and fearless, one wonders who is backing them!”

All efforts by our reporter to reach Mr. Mbagwu for his angle to the allegations proved futile as calls and text messages placed to his mobile line were not responded to as at press time.

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INVESTIGATION

Presidential panel probes Delta Senator, Peter Nwaoboshi over corruption allegations

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Senator Peter Nwaoboshi is in hot soup as the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property has referred him to the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Etsu Umar, for prosecution.

In its letter signed on behalf of the chairman of the panel, Okoi Obono-Obla, by Dr. Celsus Ukpong, urged the DPP to prosecute the senator on charges bordering on his failure to declare his assets before the panel in violation of section 3(i)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004.

The letter stated that the violation was punishable by the same provision of the Act.

It stated that it had forwarded draft charges to the DPP.

Accompanying the letter dated June 7, 2019, and received by the DPP office on June 10, 2019, were documents contained in the case file forwarded to the Ministry of Justice.

The letter read, “I am directed to you above-named case file for further action.

“The above suspect is under investigation before us for possession of suspicious assets far and beyond his legitimate earnings.

“He has refused to declare his assets before the panel after lawful demand by the special presidential investigation panel.

“This refusal is contrary to and punishable under section 3(i)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act 2004. It shall be appreciated if a charge is brought against him for his offence pending the conclusion of the investigation.”

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