Obasanjo Farms, Davido top FIRS list of tax defaulters

Davido

Obasanjo Farms, owned by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; Davido Music Worldwide Ltd, owned by superstar musician David Adedeji Adeleke; popular supermarket chain, Addide, and a host of other publicly-quoted and privately-held businesses have been listed among the 19,901 consolidated tax defaulters published by the FIRS on its website.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service, whose Executive Chairman, Babatunde Fowler, had recently been queried for worsening tax generation, published the list of the consolidated tax defaulters that included an unwieldy 19,901 entities on its website.

Obasanjo Farms Ltd. is listed as No. 17705 on the list, Davido Music Worldwide as 2387, while five outlets of Addide supermarket chains located on Lagos mainland areas of Oko-Oba, Ekoro, Fagba and Itire occupy numbers 13137-13141.

Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

The Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Abba Kyari, had queried Fowler over alleged discrepancies in tax collections from 2015 to 2018.

A letter dated August 8, 2019, and addressed to the FIRS chairman, which was signed by Kyari, had asked Fowler to explain reasons for ‘significant’ variances in budgeted collections and actual collections of tax in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In the concerned years, the actual amount collected as tax had fallen below the budgeted target.

In 2015, actual collection was N3.7tn, while the budgeted target was N4.5tn.

A similar shortfall occurred in 2016, when actual collection was N3.307tn, less than the N4.95tn budgeted target.

Also, in 2017, the FIRS collected a total of N4.027tn, less than the set target of N4.89tn.

In 2018, actual collection was N5.32tn, while the budgeted target was N6.7tn.

Fowler was appointed chairman of the FIRS in August 2015, but his appointment was confirmed by the Senate in December of the same year.

The query covered the period he has so far been in office.

His tenure is expected to expire at the end of August, going by the date he was appointed, although there are also suggestions that the expiry date could be December, the month his appointment was confirmed

In a swift reaction, the Presidency on Monday said that Fowler, was not under any probe.

In a statement on its verified Twitter handle, the Presidency dismissed stories of the alleged probe.

The statement as shared on Twitter read, “Following reports making the rounds in some media outlets, it is necessary to state categorically that the Chair of Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler, is not under any investigation.

“The letter from the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, on which the purported rumour of an investigation is based, merely raises concerns over the negative run of the tax revenue collection in recent times.”

The Federal Government has also announced its decision to audit FIRS and Customs’ revenues.

The PUNCH had reported that the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation is to conduct revenue assurance and Information Technology audit on the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian Customs Service.

The audit is part of the Fiscal Governance and Institutions Project, a collaborative programme of the Federal Government and the World Bank.

The project is aimed at strengthening revenue collection management and accounting processes, as well as transparency and accountability in the use of public funds, a statement on Saturday quoting the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, revealed; adding that he had met the managements of the FIRS and NCS over the project.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party on Monday urged the National Assembly to investigate the handling of taxes collected by the FIRS in the last four years.

The opposition party said this in light of the leaked correspondence to the FIRS boss, Babatunde Fowler by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.

In a statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP, “Therefore, urges the National Assembly to come to the rescue by holding a public inquest into the handling of taxes collected by the FIRS in the last four years, take urgent steps to recover the stolen funds and channel such to projects that have direct bearing on the welfare of Nigerians.”

THE PUNCH

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