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INVESTIGATION

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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BUSINESS

Wema Bank, Dana Airline in alleged money laundering scandal

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One of the nation’s topflight banking institutions, Wema Bank and Dana Air, owners of Sri Sai Vandana Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) have been fingered in a money laundering crime and may be prosecuted by the anti-graft agency.

According to a source, the airline’s inflight donation collected between 2014 and 2018 without following due process is the bane of contention.

“The EFCC will take it up. We will investigate and prosecute the crime element once prima facie is established,” the acting spokesperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Tony Orilade said.

Dana started Nigeria’s Sri Sai Vandana Foundation in 1995 and commenced the inflight donation in partnership with the Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria. But after the airline suffered a major crash in Lagos in 2012 in which 153 persons died, it ceased the collaboration, ‘re-strategised’, and solely ran the inflight donations.

Reports also reveal how Dana through Sri Sai Vandana Foundation, got the inflight donations between January 2014 and October 2018, raking in millions of naira deposited into the Wema Bank account number 0121291839 without due registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), a prerequisite for complying with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) regulations.

The EFCC official stated that the company will be sanctioned and that when there is a vacuum that is when we will lift the veil.

He further explained that by ‘lifting the veil’ he simply means “The company cannot run without humans. So, it is when everyone denies being members of the company that we go after the individuals.”

In line with the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, it is mandatory every Designated Non – Financial Institution, DNFI, to register with SCUML in order to legally operate in Nigeria.

Contravening the SCUML guidelines have some specific penalties, including “suspension or revocation of license, fines or imprisonment or both,” according to Sections 15 to 17 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended).

It stipulates a maximum of 14 years jail term for an individual but, in the case of a corporate organisation, the law says such organisation would pay “a fine of not less than 100 percent of the funds and properties acquired as a result of the offense committed” and would also have its license withdrawn.

Precisely, the law defines the unlawful act listed in subsection (2) of the Act to include “corruption, bribery, fraud, counterfeiting, and piracy of products…or any other criminal act specified in this Act or any other law in Nigeria.”

As such, Wema Bank officials involved in Dana’s account opening process may as well be prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, as soon as SCUML forwards its findings to the EFCC.

Source: ICIR

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INVESTIGATION

Sanwo-Olu’s Chief of Staff, Tayo Ayinde dumps wife, …Marries millionaire’s sister

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Barely one year after the crash of his marriage, popular Lagos politician, Mr. Tayo Akinmade Ayinde has found love again. He is romantically involved with Doyin Ojora, a popular society lady. Ayinde, who presently serves as the Chief of Staff to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state, was the Director-General of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu Independent Campaign Group between 2018 and 2019.

This newspaper gathered that Ayinde ended his marriage to his first wife, Titilola, shortly before Sanwo-Olu’s gubernatorial project kicked off. Sources disclosed that Ayinde decided to end the marriage to Titilola and send her packing, for the flimsiest of excuses, which continue to elude the couple’s close friends. Not satisfied with his decision to call it quit with his first wife, Ayinde, reportedly, denied her access to their children.

Close sources disclosed that Ayinde’s decision to end his marriage with Titilola, has refused to sit well with his close friend. They can’t seem to fathom why he would dump the woman, who started from the scratch and made a lot of sacrifices to make him what he is today.

Sources revealed  that Titilola almost went into a state of depression when all efforts she made to reconcile with her family was frustrated by her estranged husband. Left with little or no option, the 49-year old lady left Nigeria and relocated to the United States, where she currently resides.

Meanwhile, Ayinde has since found love in the bosom of Doyin Ojora, a party-loving society girl. The two have since consummated the affair and now carry on as husband and wife. Doyin is in her late 30’s, and she is the niece of Otunba Adekunle Ojora, the boardroom businessman. She once worked with Ayodeji Joseph, during his tenure as Chairman of Apapa Local Government. Later, she was appointed as a caretaker of Apapa Local Council.

Ayinde, who hails from Ikorodu, Lagos State was born on the 24th of August, 1964 at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. He is an alumnus of Havard Business School, Boston, USA and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Ayinde is a former security and intelligence personnel. He had previously served as chief security detail to the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from 1999 to 2007.

A source close to the chief of staff, however disclosed that he and his estranged wife have been separated for about 3 years and they finally divorced last year. “It was as a result of irreconcilable differences, he’s a good man who has right to live well.

This was one of the issues that counted against him when he contemplated contesting for the governorship, Aswaju told him that “koni yawo nile,( he doesn’t have a wife) so, if he decides to do that now,is it wrong? The source said.

SOURCE: First Weekly Magazine

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INVESTIGATION

Crisis rocks Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as D-G refuses to leave after tenure

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There is apprehension in the Abuja head office of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as a result of the decision of the Director-General (D-G), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, to remain in office after the expiration of his tenure.

Despite the order from the Permanent Secretary of the federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Abdullahi, who is the overall boss of the ministry in the absence of a minister, that Ihekweazu should vacate office based on the content of his appointment letter dated August 1, 2016, he has bluntly refused to obey the instruction.

A presidency source, who is in the know of what is going on in the agency, declared that the Permanent Secretary has made an official complaint against the D-G to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.

The presidency source said: “There is a complete loss of confidence in the D-G and the top officials no longer hold meetings with him”.

Aside the fact that this action may affect the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, it may also affect the mandate of the agency to effectively respond to the challenges of public health emergencies.

NCDC Memo

The source declared that the Presidency is already shopping for a replacement “and this will be announced soon”.

The top four directors in the agency are Dr. Joshua Obasanya, Mrs. Olubunmi Ojo, Mrs. Nwando Mba and Mr. Y.Y. Abdullahi. Of these four, Obasanya is the most senior.

There are also Deputy Directors such as, Dr. John Oladejo, Mrs. Elsie Ilori, Dr. Priscilla Ibekwe, Dr. Chinwe Ochu and Dr. Olufemi Ayoola “and I can tell you for free that these top officials don’t see eye to eye with the D-G again”.

One of the junior officials in the ministry declared: “Our D-G has vehemently refused to vacate office, despite the instruction from the Permanent Secretary”.

He said Ihekweazu assumed office on August 1, 2016 based on a letter signed by the then SGF, Babachir David Lawal.

With Ref. No. SGF.6/XXI/356 and entitled APPOINTMENT OF NATIONAL COORDINATOR/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (NCDC), the letter reads:
“I am pleased to inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved your appointment as National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer of the National Office for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC).

“The appointment took effect from 25th July, 2016 and your emoluments and other conditions of service are as provided under Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008.

“I am to add that your tenure terminates at the end of this Administration unless otherwise decided by Mr. President.

“Please accept my congratulations and best wishes on your appointment”.

The source declared that Ihekweazu “pressed all the buttons” to ensure a renewal of his tenure in May and April but a fresh letter was not given to him.

“He should have left office since May 29 but he has been using delay tactics. I can tell you that the morale is down in our office. All our ogas (directors) don’t attend meeting with Dr. Ihekweazu again.

“I remember the last meeting they had with him was about two days after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for another term on May 29.

“The D-G should have left office on May 28 but he told them that he would leave office Tuesday of the following week. Twenty four hours to the day, he called them again and announced that he would leave office the following Thursday. All of a sudden, the next thing we saw was a letter from the D-G, informing all directors, heads of departments and members of staff that he would go on one-week leave from June 13 to 21”.

The letter, dated June 11, 2019, reads:
“Dear Colleagues, I will be proceeding on annual leave from the 13th to 21st of June, 2019.

“During this period, Dr. Joshua Obasanya will act in my capacity as Director-General.

“I am very grateful for the hard work and support from you all in the first half of this year. It has been an extremely busy period but with a lot of success and remarkable achievements.

“The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey.

“Once again colleagues, thank you very much for your support.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu”

The source said the paragraph ‘The prospects of what we can achieve in the next half of the year are very exciting. I look forward to more progress on this journey’ is already causing ripples in the agency as it is believed that Ihekweazu does not want to vacate office, despite the expiration of his tenure.

The source alleged that the D-G “is still signing cheques and awarding contracts, backdating them to May 27”.

“There is a serious lacuna in our office. The sit-tight syndrome is already affecting our operations here. There is also the allegation of nepotism against the D-G. Since the D-G resumed from the one-week leave, I have not seen our ogas (directors) in his office. Now, we hear all kinds of rumours.

“There is tension everywhere. One of the ogas (directors) told me that they will not have any meeting with him. Honestly, since the Permanent Secretary advised the D-G to leave, I wonder what he is still doing in the office”.

Established in 2011, the core functions of NCDC include prevention, detection and control of diseases of public health importance.

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