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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

Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema risks jail over money laundering, bank fraud

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Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema risks jail over money laundering, bank fraud

Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, the Chairman, CEO, and founder of Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.

The Nigerian businessman was accused of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving “false documents” based on the purchase of airplanes.

Onyema was indicted alongside Ejiroghene Eghagha, the airline’s chief of administration and finance, who is said to have committed aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme.

In a statement issued by the district attorney’s office on Friday, Onyema and Eghagha were indicted on November 19, 2019, on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.

“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” Byung J, US attorney for the northern district of Georgia, was quoted in the statement.

“We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”

Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta field division, also said: “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the U.S. banking system, but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt.”

Robert Hammer, another special agent, accused Onyema of setting up “various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam”.

Onyema was said to have started travelling frequently to Atlanta, where he opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9 million was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.

After he founded Air Peace in 2013, Onyema was said to have gone to the US to purchase aircraft and “over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.

“Beginning in approximately May 2016, Onyema, together with Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema.  The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace. The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.

“However, the supporting documents were fake — Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business, never owned the aircraft, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist.  Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager’s identity to further the fraud. After Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.”

The statement, however, added that Onyema and Eghagha are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

In September, Onyema was hailed by many for evacuating Nigerians stranded in South Africa at no cost. The house of representatives had subsequently also recommend him for national award.

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Controversy trails emergence of Prof. Lilian Salami as UNIBEN new VC

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Professor Salami

The appointment of a substantive Vice Chancellor for University of Benin, UNIBEN is presently causing ripples at the institution as some concerned stakeholders have accused the management of allegedly working to impose an unpopular candidate on the school.

THE WITNESS reliably gathered that a Professor of Home Economics/Nutritional Education, Mrs. Lilian Imuetinyan Salami has emerged as the second female Vice Chancellor of the institution.

Her appointment came 28 years after Prof. (Mrs.) Alele William left as the first female Vice Chancellor of UNIBEN.

The Public Relations Officer of the University, Mr. Michael Osasuyi, confirmed the appointment in a statement on Friday in Benin.

She will take over from the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof. Faraday Osasere Orumwense, whose tenure ends in November.

Inside sources however revealed that the emergence of Professor Salami is a big shock, as she becomes the third person of Benin extraction in succession, to be named Vice Chancellor of the University.

Sources further disclosed that the new UNIBEN VC came second in the exam conducted for aspirants for the exalted position, after Prof. MacDonald Idu who scored the highest marks, while Prof. George Eriyamremu came third.

Professors​ Idu and Eremayanru are both from Delta State.

Born in Jos, Plateau State on August 8, 1956, Prof. Salami, (nee Emovon), hails from Benin.

Her early schooling started in Jos but was truncated by the Nigerian Civil War. She later completed her primary and secondary education in Edo State.

She obtained her West African School Certificate (O’ levels) from Baptist High School, Benin City.

She proceeded to the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point Campus, United States of America, in 1975. She had her summer schooling in the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. She later transferred to North Dakota State University, Fargo after she got married in 1977, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in 1979 in Home Economics and Master’s degree in Nutrition in 1982.

She returned to Nigeria in 1983 and enrolled to serve in the National Youth Service Corps in Benin City.

Upon completion of the national service, she made a brief start of her teaching career with the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).

Between 1985 and 1994, she lectured Nutrition at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria.

This was interjected when she gained admission into University of Nigeria, Nsukka for a doctoral degree in Human Nutrition in 1989 which she obtained in 1991.

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OPS responsible for rising pension fund – PenCom

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The acting Director-General of the National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, says the total pension assets in Nigeria rose from N7.44tn in January to over N9tn as of March.

Dahir-Umar attributed the boost in the pension assets to the support of the organised private sector and labour.

The Pencom DG, who was represented by Salihu Bwala, made the disclosure on Thursday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association and Pencom interactive session on current developments and challenges in the implementation of the Pension Reform Act, 2014.

She said, “The pension industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the country with the support of the organised private sector and labour.

“The Contributory PensionScheme plan currently has over N9tr pension assets. This feat could not have been achieved without the support of the organised private sector.”

She explained that the commission had developed a software application that tackled the problem of multiple registrations and urged employers to encourage their employees to avail themselves to their respective pension administrators for data recapture and regularisation.

– Source: PUNCH

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