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No tribalism at FIRS -Nami

*The Board and Management of FIRS is poised to discharge its statutory responsibilities without succumbing to blackmail or unnecessary distraction

The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Muhammad Nami, has stated that the Service is a national institution of pride where tribalism and ethnic jingoism has no ground to take roots talk less of thriving.

Mr. Nami made this assertion in a statement issued on Monday by Director, Communication and Liaison of FIRS, Abdullahi Ismail Ahmad.

According to Mr. Nami, “the FIRS is one national institution which any Nigerian joins and is assured of rising to the very top in the hierarchy based on his or her individual competence and hard work on the job, and not on the basis of any tribal or religious affiliation.”

The Executive Chairman stated: “If any FIRS worker had been a victim of tribalism or religious discrimination in the past, I say to such marginalized worker: Not anymore and not on my watch at the FIRS.”

Therefore, Mr. Nami pointed out that claims in a section of the media alleging appointments and retirements along ethnic and religious lines at the FIRS “are very far from the truth in relation to publicly available evidence.”

The statement continued: “The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) wishes to clarify that the recent staff retirement exercise which affected nine directors was done in full compliance with the law and in the best interest of the Service and the country, contrary to insinuations in a section of the media.

“The Board of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in a meeting held on Friday, March 20, 2020 took the decision and approved that all directors who had served in the FIRS for eight years and above should be retired.

“The FIRS Board took that decision in line with Paragraph 10.1(a)(iii) of Human Resources Policy and Programmes (HRPP)” of the FIRS after considering a number of career progression complaints by some staff in the Service.

“Worthy of note is that FIRS Establishment Act, 2007, Section 7 empowers the FIRS Board to take certain far-reaching decisions in the interest of the Service and by extension, the country.

“Specifically, Section 7 (d) states that the Board shall… “employ and determine the terms and conditions of service including disciplinary measures of the employees of the Service”. Section 7(J) states that the Board shall “do such other things which in its opinion are necessary to ensure the efficient/performance of the functions of the Service under this Act”.

“It is in the discharge of such responsibilities that the Board approved the retirement of the nine directors who had spent eight years and above as directors as provided by the FIRS statutes.

“In doing that, the FIRS Board considered subsisting issues in the Service which have to do with career progression. Management had observed that there was stagnation in career progression in the Service because some directors had served for about 10 years while younger members of staff who also possessed requisite expertise could not progress in their career line. Some staff had taken a number of promotion examinations and had passed but could not be promoted. The affected staff and the staff unions had complained to the Management to intervene in the situation.

“Consequent upon the appointment and inauguration of the new Executive Chairman together with the Board by the Federal Government, the career progression issue was tabled before the Board on March, 20, 2020. In its wisdom, the Board used its prerogative to direct the nine directors to be retired immediately.

“The retirement of the directors was a selfless and courageous decision taken in compliance with the laws. It was done in good faith and in the best interest of the Service.

“To further portray its good intensions, the Board of FIRS reappointed five of the retired directors either as Coordinating Directors or as Special Advisers in the Service. This way, the junior colleagues could have the opportunity to rise in their career line.

“It is unfortunate that some unnamed individuals were quoted in a section of the media alleging that the FIRS did not follow due process in retiring the directors and in appointing new ones.

“The retirement exercise and the appointment of new directors was not done in secret or with ulterior motives. The FIRS issued a press statement announcing their retirement and the appointment of new directors. This information is in the public domain for anyone interested to verify.

“The newly appointed directors out of the nine retired directors are: Chiaka Okoye (an Igbo) the Group Lead, Digital Support Group and a member of the management team; Mr. Olufemi Faniyi (a Yoruba) the Coordinating Director, Tax Operations Group and a member of the management team; Dr Asheikh Madugu (a Kanuri) the Acting Coordinating Director, ECFIRS Group and a member of the management team; Mr. Innocent Ohagwa (an Igbo) the Acting Coordinating Director, Support Services Group and a member of the management team; Mr. Ezra Zubairu (a Northern Christian) the Acting Coordinating Director, Compliance Support Group and a member of the management team. While Mrs. Faosat Oguniyi (a Yoruba Muslim) who is not among the nine retired directors is the Group Lead, Enforcement Support Group and also a member of the management team. Kola Okunola (a Yoruba) and Auta Mohammed (a Hausa) have been retained as Special Advisors ICT and Administration respectively. And Nneka Ofekwuna (an Igbo) is the Board Secretary.

“The current management team is therefore composed of two Yoruba, two Igbo, and two Northern minority tribes; and in all there are four Christians and three Muslims in the current FIRS management team. The public is therefore called upon to disregard the mischief making the rounds in some sections of the media. The current management team and the Board of the FIRS is poised to discharge its statutory responsibilities without succumbing to blackmail or unnecessary distraction,” the statement added further.