BY MUYIWA OYINLOLA
An assemblage of over 180 civil society organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of Civil Society Groups for Good Governance (CSGGG), has
cautioned Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and the Transparency International (TI) to refrain from maligning the reputation of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) under the leadership of Muhammad Nami.
The group said the caution became necessary following an allegation of improper budget estimates for refreshment and meals in FIRS, made by the two groups.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja, the convener of CSGGG, Comrade Dominic Ogakwu, said the group officially wrote to the FIRS on March 12, 2021, requesting clarifications on the said allegations and it responded with detailed facts and figures, “as against the unsubstantiated claims being peddled by unscrupulous elements in the public domain.”
“We gladly announce here that our investigations and consequent findings, have necessitated this press conference, so as to set the records straight for posterity’s sake.”
According to Ogakwu, refreshment and meals amounting to three hundred and forty million naira (₦340,000,000.00) is under sub-code 1001 in the budget.
“The Sub-Code 1001 which is for Refreshment & Meals estimated at ₦340,000,000.00, for meetings with stakeholders and taxpayers, Office Functions, Technical Sessions, and Promotion Exercise etc.
“In addition, the above Sub-Code deals with general entertainment/refreshments during meetings in the field offices, Head Office/Committee engagements across the FIRS in the 37 States, inclusive of FCT; and in the headquarters, including Board Meetings and Tax Appeal Tribunal amongst others. There are over 500 Offices and Functions in FIRS and what each of these would get would be very negligible when analysed on monthly basis.
“However, it should be noted that budget provision being an estimate of income and a plan for domestic expenditure by an organization, does not translate to actual expenditure, because the amount to be actually spent would still depend on the actual fund released and received by the Service, on the basis of performance and delivery,” he said.
The group urged HURIWA and TI to visit FIRS forthwith for an inquest, rather than sitting on the fence to cast aspersions on the agency.
“CSGGG unanimously condemns the action taken by HURIWA and Transparency International. It is our considered opinion that the said groups were misinformed and misguided if not misled, by some shameless and faceless shenanigans, who enjoy playing politics with anything and everything for their own selfish reasons.
“That the leader of HURIWA should be mature enough to cease from comparing Nami’s reign with that of his predecessors and in the process calling it a ‘Cesspool of filth and massive corruption.’
“Finally, I wish to use this opportunity to advocate for better welfare packages for the staff of FIRS and other revenue generating agencies of government in order to stimulate performances of public servants and enable them shun sharp practices, as it is becoming more obvious that taxes are a more dependable avenue for economic growth and infrastructural development in our dear country,” he added.