If serendipity were the common denominator or least intangible criterion for political appointments in the next administration, it is not likely to work for Dr Babatunde Fowler, the executive chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, according to mischief makers. Yes, Fowler is a marked man. And he has played into the hands of those eyeing his position.
For an administration that vaunts its anti-corruption initiatives and achievements, the FIRS, under Fowler, has become the cesspit of everything the Muhammadu Buhari administration abhors. Recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested 40 senior and junior management staff, including the Director of Finance, Mr. M. Auta, for an alleged N2.1billion scam purportedly siphoned through alleged payment of Duty Tour Allowances (DTA) to the staff.
Some of the suspects were paid as much as N101million among other eye-watering figures. The international passports of 10 of the officials were seized to restrict their movement to the country pending investigation. For now, he can’t travel as investigations are ongoing.
The EFCC said the officials, many of who are trusted and loyal aides of Fowler, were arrested for “alleged inflation of Duty Tour Allowances, humongous payments to staff, diversion of funds and outright stealing of public funds.” It added that there was information that some senior management officials were using their subordinates to siphon funds from the accounts of the FIRS in the guise of travelling allowances. The practice was that the funds were paid to the staff and after little deductions; the bulk of the money was transferred to the senior management staff.
The EFCC stated, “As civil servants, some of the suspects were paid as much as N101million, N97million, N89million, N84million, N65million, N52million and N46million as Duty Tour Allowances. There is no way a civil servant can earn about N101million in his or her 35 years in service. In some instances, some staff claimed to have been in Lagos, Sokoto, Calabar on the same day and collected DTA. Most of the DTA allowances were actually not used for official purposes or public service. This is a case of stealing and money laundering.”
It was further gathered that the EFCC is closing in on several other senior officials of the revenue collection service in a widening investigation to uncover other fraudulent activities involving several billions of government tax revenues.
Indeed, Fowler has been running from pillar to post, consulting and reaching out to the powers that be to ensure that whatever happens, he is returned to the lucrative position but sources say he may not find favour in the president who has been inundated with tales of Fowler’s lifestyle.
From his days as chairman of the Lagos Inland Revenue Service, LIRS, Fowler has been regarded as a socialite with a deep pocket; a large heart and a penchant for making the dreams of many people to become car owners come true. But the arrest of his boys took a toll on Fowler so much that he was a shadow of himself when his daughter, Olufunke Leila, got married for the second time to banker Aigbovbioise Aig-Imoukhuede weeks back.
Though a jolly good fellow who never misses an opportunity to gather his friends for some champagnes and cognacs, Fowler looked morose for the most part of his daughter’s wedding ceremonies.