Home Finance Furore in FIRS as chairman retires directors, appoints outsiders

Furore in FIRS as chairman retires directors, appoints outsiders

by Business News Report

The appointment of new directors and the subsequent retirement of those who are eight years and above as Director in Federal Inland Service has raised dust among staff and tax paying public that could hinder the smooth running of the services and denied government of the much desired revenue. The staff of the Service, are not happy with the recent retirement of directors and appointments into the service of outsiders as directors alleged to have been arbitrarily made by the executive chairman. The lopsided appointments did not favour experienced staff within the system nor did it reflect federal character but contract staff contrary to laid down civil service rules and guidelines. The retirement of the experienced directors also came when Nigerians are battling with how to curtail the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country and its attendant economic challenges. Muhammad Nami, executive chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS is alleged to have  seized the distraction caused by the coronavirus to relieve the directors of their position and install his cronies in the service.

Reacting to a rebuttal by FIRS in some media grieved directors said “The question to ask here is where is the authority to retire staff derived from? The board or the HRPP, Public Service rules, the constitution, or Extant Circulars by the government? If the basis and authority to retire staff vis-a-vis their tenure are the HRPP then with or without the Board the organisation can still retire their staff irrespective of the fact whether there is a board or not. Just like the mandatory retirement of 35 years in service or 60 years of age does not require the presence of any board to validate it. Subsequently, the argument that the board approved the retirement is a very porous one since if the board approves illegality it still remains illegality and does not make it right.” Some of the retired directors said that the previous management did not retire staff not because there was no board but simply because they realised the illegality of such a decision”.

According to the aggrieved directors, in its deliberate effort to deceive people and cover-up its illegality the advertorial by FIRS deliberately omitted certain keywords from its publications. They noted that Section 1.8.2 of the HRPP states that; ‘All extant circulars, directives, notices, orders and other documents amending and giving further details and/or explanation to the provisions of this policy document hereto shall form an integral part of the HRPP and shall equally be binding. But FIRS in its advertorial stated that these refer only to circulars, directives, policies, orders, and other documents issued by the board and management of the service and not from the head of the service.

The directors said if this position was not intended to deceive the Nigerian public, why was the word EXTANT omitted? “They questioned is who in Nigeria issues EXTANT circulars, policies, and directives; FIRS Board or the government of Nigeria? Extant circulars are circulars with the force of law. FIRS can only issue information circulars clarifying tax laws and even that with the express approval of the minister of finance who is authorised by law to issue such.

“So the question is, is FIRS board authorised to issue extant circulars and if FIRS is not subject to extant circulars issued by the Head of Service under the approval of a sitting President, are they law to themselves or are they above the law?” The directors also disputed the FIRS response about the contract staff employed as directors by Muhammad Nami, executive chairman, FIRS. They insisted that the employment wasn’t transparent and fall short of the standard. “In their advertorial 4.5, they evasively tried to respond to the allegation of not duly following the procedures of the law in recruiting four contract directors. The first question is; were the positions advertised? If it was advertised in what journals, media, and for how many days? If the recruitment was not advertised why are they then kicking against the claim that the recruitment was not transparent? The second question is was the provisions of the acclaimed HRPP, which they have been quoting to justify their actions followed in such recruitment?

“Section 2.22 (i) of the HRPP clearly states that contract appointment SHALL ONLY be made where the required skills and competence ARE NOT AVAILABLE within the service (emphasis mine). So as good advocates of the HRPP which of the four contract directors’ possesses skill or competence that is not available within the service? FIRS has over 270 qualified/Chartered Accountants at both directorate and none directorate positions, so why were none of these chartered accountants appointed as directors of Finance and accounts and internal auditor instead of bringing in contract staff from outside the service as directors? Same goes for the director of communication who was brought in as a deputy director and promoted to a full director under three months or the director of the chairman’s office? He that comes to equity must come with clean hands. The service admitted that of the four directors two are from Niger State – short of admitting that they are Nupe people while one is from Kaduna and another from Bauchi all within the same Zone,” the sacked directors stated. The statement said: “How tribalistic and nepotistic can that be? You unilaterally recruited four contract staff in violation of the HRPP, without advertising the positions or taking cognizance of the federal character provision of the constitution. If what the previous chairman did what was wrong, is that a justification for you the so-called reformist and change agent to do the same? Taken into consideration even with the acclaimed recruitment of 14 out of 24 contract staff by the former chairman that is still 58 percent whereas four out of four recruitments is 100 percent.”

The sacked directors also questioned why FIRS was funding advertorials to deny an obvious fact. They insisted that there was no transparency, accountability, integrity, and federal character representation in the current recruitments and postings in FIRS. They noted that the retirement of directors was illegal and didn’t follow the proper procedures.

“The earlier argument or justification for the retirement of the directors, which we find surprising that they have dropped, was that the retirement was for the good of the service and aimed at creating opportunities for the lower cadre. If that is so why then were four contract staff brought in from outside the organisation and made directors rather than promoting people from the lower cadre to fill those positions. Secondly, if there is the need to elevate staff from lower cadre then the option will be to destroy the career of other people irrespective of their contract of employment to make room for others? Another pertinent question to ask also is which other of the acclaimed public service organisation other than FIRS has implemented or gone ahead to retire their directors in contravention of the gazetted government circular suspending the eight-year tenure of directors? The most honourable thing for FIRS to do is to acknowledge their errors and duly make amends for such obnoxious decisions,” the sacked directors advised.

 His action has rendered experienced staff of FIRS unemployed at this precarious time in the country when they could have used their experience to boost revenue generation in the country instead of converting contract staff with no requisite experience to permanent staff without going through proper recruitment process. Nami allegedly subverted the 2016 Federal Civil Services Rules and Guidelines enacted by the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration in sacking directors who have not reached retirement age and appointing new directors in FIRS. Directors said that on March 24, the executive chairman retired all directors in the service that have served eight years and above to make way for his cronies. In an internal memo sighted by BNR, the executive chairman said the retirement was in line with Para 10: 1(a)(iii) of the Human Resource Programmes and Policy, HRPP, an internal Human Resources policy guiding the operations of FIRS.

FIRS letter had said “This is to formerly notify you that the board of the Federal Inland Revenue Service at its emergency meeting No.2 held on the 20th March, 2020, approved the retirement of all directors who have served eight years and above as directors in the service in line with Para 10: 1(a)(iii) of HRPP. We wish them well in their future endeavours. The board also gave its approval for the appointment of four coordinating directors in acting capacity and two group leads for a six months period,” he said. But a day later Nami released another memo where he announced the appointment of new directors. The memo on March 26, titled: ‘Addendum of Appointments by the FIRS Board stated that the appointment was made to support management towards meeting and surpassing its revenue targets. “This is to formerly notify you that the board of FIRS at its emergency meeting No. 2 held on March 20, 2020 also gave its approval for the appointments.”

Some of the new directors appointed by the executive chairman like Ahmed Muhammed Musa, director, finance and accounts; Mustapha Ndajumo, special assistant technical to the executive chairman; Ahmed Ndannusa, director, internal affairs and efficiency; Abdulahi Ismaila, director, communication and liaison department and Aisha Hamza Mohammed, acting director, executive chairman’s office are not staff of FIRS. These new appointees are all from Nupe, Niger State, where Nami comes from. Of note is that all the appointments contravened the same internal Human Resource Programmes and Policy of the FIRS which Nami relied on to retire the directors against the superior policy by President Buhari. For instance, section 2. 22 of the HRPP stated that “contract appointments shall only be made where the required skills and competence are not available within the service. The appointment must also be justified by relevant office or department making the request.” All the people Nami appointed, there are so many competent and skilled internal staff members to occupy the positions. None of the people so appointed possess any special skills that are not in abundance within the FIRS. 

Apart from the allegation of cronyism in his appointments, Nami is also accused of abusing  the tenure policy of the federal civil service in retiring the FIRS directors. The tenure policy which previously made it compulsory for directors in the federal civil service to retire after eight years was reversed by President Buhari in 2016. Consequently, Nami’s decision to retire the directors is against the directive of the president as stated in a circular from the office of the head of service of the federation on June 20, 2016, with reference number HCSF/428/S.1/139 that the tenure policy was been suspended by Buhari. The circular signed by Winifred Oyo-Ita, former head of the Civil Service of the Federation, stated that: “With reference to letter No. SH/COS/100/A/1462 dated 17 June, 2016, I write to convey Mr. President’s directive that the tenure policy in the federal civil service is suspended with immediate effect. This notice is for the attention of all concerned for compliance.” Apart from ignoring the presidential directive, the wrongfully retired directors have not reached the retirement age of 60 years or serve up to 35 years in the civil service. But they were forcefully retired by Nami in order to have his way. Contacted, FIRS denied the allegations of wrongful retirement, saying the retirement was in the interest of the workers. Abdulahi Ismaila, Director, Communication and Liaison Department, said there was no witch-hunting in the retirement process. He accused the administration of Babatunde Fowler, former executive chairman of FIRS of not promoting workers in the last five years.

“The position of the director is the highest position in the service as a civil servant and the longer they stay in office, the longer it affects those below them. This has been the case in the service and some of these directors have served for more than eight years and some more that 10 years. Even during the administration of the immediate past executive chairman of the service, promotion examinations were conducted and those that passed the exams were told that there was no vacant position for them to be promoted. But when Nami came, he decided to motivate the workers by promoting them and in doing that he has to retire directors that have served eight years and above. His actions are well-intended, to boost morale of staff, entrench fairness and create efficiency in the service,” he said. On the allegation of bringing contract staff to replace the retired directors, Ismaila said those who replaced the directors were promoted from the service. He acknowledge that contract staff was brought in, but said they had been around before the retirement of the directors. “Just to punch holes in the director of communication’s response. If you want to promote staff from within and motivate or increase staff morale how come you are hiring five directors from outside who are not even staff but contract staff? You are laying of experienced staff  and bringing in novices as directors not even staff within the organisation and you are still claiming to motivate staff or shore up their morale.

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