REBUILDING FIRS INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK: MUHAMMAD NAMI -LED ADMINISTRATION FOR LONG TERM AND SUSTAINABILITY

© Imaobong Umoekah


The administration has been committed to building and strengthening the capacity of the Departments and Units of Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) to deliver their mandates on a long term and sustainable basis. In line with this the Board approved a new structure for the Service on 17th January, 2020. The new Organogram is composed of six Groups and 32 Departments including the Internal Affairs Department that reports directly to the Executive Chairman.
Taxpayer Segmentation has been re-introduced. The Audit and Investigation departments were also reviewed for effectiveness.

FIRS’ institutional framework; robust collaboration with stakeholders; building a taxpayer-centric institution; and data-centric institution; participation in international tax engagements.

On that note, the Annual Corporate Plan Retreat was reintroduced and it held between 7th and 8th February, 2020 with the theme: “Repositioning FIRS for Efficient Service Delivery.” The 2020 Corporate Plan was approved by the Executive Chairman, FIRS. Muhammad Nami and exposed to the staff at the headquarters.
The Intelligence, Strategic Data Mining & Analysis Department (ISDMA) was established to deploy technological tools analyze tax data and distil for improved assessment of taxpayers.
The Tax Incentive Management Department (TIMD) was also established to manage, implement and report on tax incentives as provided by relevant extant laws and regulations. This department is specifically in charge of the tax affairs of companies/ enterprises enjoying tax exemptions and holidays. Companies enjoying pioneer incentives, NGOs, Cooperative Societies, companies in Export Processing Zones, Free Trade Zones, Oil and Gas Export Processing Zones, those engaged in Downstream Gas Utilization and all others enjoying tax holidays are being managed by this department to forestall revenue leakages, such that companies, enterprises do not use their statuses as a cover to earn taxable income and refuse to pay tax on those income.

“Our efforts to reposition the Service for better service to our esteemed taxpayers would be anchored on four cardinal point” – Nami said.

The National Tax Week:
The FIRS hosted the first ever National Tax Dialogue in January 2020. The event brought together leaders, institutional stakeholders and tax experts from across the world to discuss matters relating to improving taxation especially in Nigeria. Attendees included President Muhammadu Buhari, AFdB President, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Executive Secretary of the African Tax Administration Forum, Mr Logan Wort, among others.
The Executive Chairman has approved that a week at the beginning of every year be set aside as the National Tax Week, to host events on tax education awareness, discuss contemporary tax matters, and proffer solutions to fiscal challenges.
On Participation in International Tax Engagements, Nami’s leadership of the FIRS has also launched Nigeria and the FIRS to international tax spectacle. For the first time in history, Nigeria heads the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA). Nami was unanimously elected President by the 47-member country organisation on November 12, 2021 during the organisation’s General Assembly which held virtually. Nami becomes the 15th President of CATA and first Nigerian to be so elected and will occupy the office for a three-year tenure.
Nami has had an inaugural meeting as the CATA President in the United Kingdom. He is taking Nigeria’s ideals on tax administration including digitalisation, tax legislative reforms and his reputation on accountability and focus to the international scene.  He further promised that as President of CATA he will mobilise member countries and other tax bodies to build capacity of tax administrators to tackle the challenges they face.
Rebuilding FIRS structure started two years back when NAMI took over the mantle of Service in 2019 at a time the Establishment was at a very low ebb in terms of Visionary and Goal-oriented Leadership. Mr. Nami hit the ground running by immediately articulated a four-point dimensional Action Plan to Change the Narratives and redefine the Tragetries of the Service, giving a much clearer direction and higher sense of Mission to a System that was almost engulfed by inconsistencies and serial Policy somersault.
The Four Cardinal Objectives of the Nami’s Administration, from the onset, were as follows; Rebuilding FIRS Institutional Framework, effective Synergy and strong Collaboration with Stakeholders, Making FIRS a Customer-centric Institution, and making FIRS a Data-centric Establishment,
which correlate with the three core areas of a Tax System, being, Tax Laws, Tax Policy and Tax Administration.
Moreover, pursuing these four targetted Objectives, within just two years, the new Executive Chairman has proven to be a man with a MIDAS TOUCH, breaking barriers and ushering in new order, while raising the morale of Staff and Management to an unprecedented level. The FIRS Boss, being an excellent Team Player, has been able to motivate and extract the potentials in Members of his Management and Staff of the Service toward much greater mandate delivery and satisfactory performances.
And then, tax System works better by having strong synergy with critical Stakeholders, coupled with a properly nurtured and sustained customer-centric sentiment with a bias for Data Analysis and Utilisation. All of these can blend well within the Framework of a well structured Institution. It is most astonishing and highly amazing how Mr. Nami has been able to galvanize all Human and limited Financial Resources available to achieve such huge and uncommon reforms in the Management of FIRS and Tax Administration in Nigeria.
January, 2020. The new Organogram is composed of six Groups and 32 Departments including the Internal Affairs Department that reports directly to the Executive Chairman.
Taxpayer Segmentation has been re-introduced. The Audit and Investigation departments were also reviewed for effectiveness.
The Annual Corporate Plan Retreat was reintroduced and it held between 7th and 8th February, 2020 with the theme “Repositioning FIRS for Efficient Service Delivery.” The 2020 Corporate Plan was approved by the Executive Chairman, FIRS and exposed to the staff at the headquarters.
The Intelligence, Strategic Data Mining & Analysis Department (ISDMA) was established to deploy technological tools analyze tax data and distil for improved assessment of taxpayers.
The Tax Incentive Management Department (TIMD) was also established to manage, implement and report on tax incentives as provided by relevant extant laws and regulations. This department is specifically in charge of the tax affairs of companies/ enterprises enjoying tax exemptions and holidays. Companies enjouying pioneer incentives, NGOs, Cooperative Societies, companies in Export Processing Zones, Free Trade Zones, Oil and Gas Export Processing Zones, those engaged in Downstream Gas Utilization and all others enjoying tax holidays are being managed by this department to forestall revenue leakages, such that companies, enterprises do not use their statuses as a cover to earn taxable income and refuse to pay tax on those income.
The National Tax Week:
The FIRS hosted the first ever National Tax Dialogue in January 2020. The event brought together leaders, institutional stakeholders and tax experts from across the world to discuss matters relating to improving taxation especially in Nigeria. Attendees included President Muhammadu Buhari, AFdB President, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Executive Secretary of the African Tax Administration Forum, Mr Logan Wort, among others.
The Executive Chairman has approved that a week at the beginning of every year be set aside as the National Tax Week, to host events on tax education awareness, discuss contemporary tax matters, and proffer solutions to fiscal challenges.
On Participation in International Tax Engagements, Nami’s leadership of the FIRS has also launched Nigeria and the FIRS to international tax spectacle. For the first time in history, Nigeria heads the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA). Nami was unanimously elected President by the 47-member country organisation on November 12, 2021 during the organisation’s General Assembly which held virtually. Nami becomes the 15th President of CATA and first Nigerian to be so elected and will occupy the office for a three-year tenure.
Nami has had an inaugural meeting as the CATA President in the United Kingdom. He is taking Nigeria’s ideals on tax administration including digitalisation, tax legislative reforms and his reputation on accountability and focus to the international scene.  He further promised that as President of CATA he will mobilise member countries and other tax bodies to build capacity of tax administrators to tackle the challenges they face.
“One goal I hope to achieve as your President is to work hand-in-hand with member countries to expand the character of tax administration such that our work is in tune with today’s innovation and realities,” he stated.
In September, 2021 Nigeria hosted the 17th General Assembly and 10th Anniversary of the West African Tax Administration Forum (WATAF). The theme for the 2021 General Assembly of WATAF, was “The Taxation of the Digital Economy: Exploring Untapped Revenue Sources in Africa”. The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of WATAF and consists of all heads of tax administrations of the fifteen member states. The FIRS graciously accommodates the office of Executive Secretary of WATAF which its staff, Babatunde Oladapo, is the Executive Secretary.
Nigeria is actively involved in other international tax engagements such as the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) among others.
Resolution of the Squabble Among Tax Bodies in Nigeria.
Over the years, precisely since 2004, some professional bodies in taxation and economy remained at loggerheads over areas of influence. This squabble took its toll on the economy because where there is no peace and unity, there is no progress. In May, 2021, Nami, a pragmatic administrator who has the progress of these bodies at heart put a machinery in motion which finally resolved the issue. The professional bodies are the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN).
He said: “following the disagreement and various court disputes since 2004 to date, between ICAN, ANAN and CITN on issue of Tax practice, it became necessary that FIRS under my leadership should intervene by inviting the three sister professional bodies for amicable resolution.” The FIRS facilitated signing of a memorandum of association which was meant to provide an atmosphere in which the bodies could operate seamlessly “to support what FIRS does and also contribute to the improvement of the Country’s position on the ease of doing business index”. That was the very first time, ICAN, CITN and ANAN came together on one platform to affix their respective hands and seals to a document and affirmed their commitment to the growth and development of tax administration, compliance and practice in Nigeria.

In accordance, on the 6th of October 2021, the FIRS under Muhammad Nami was awarded the International Standard Organization (ISO) 27001:2013 certification. This affirms that the Services’ network is secure, the data processes and data it possesses are secure as well as the taxpayer information it holds and receives within Nigeria and across the world.

Tax Administration Challenges
The conduct of field tax audit and physical reconciliation of tax audit cases posed a serious challenge due to Covid-19. Security challenges experienced in some parts of the country has slowed business activities thereby impacting negatively revenue collection. Inadequate data from 3rd parties on non-compliant or unregistered taxpayers; Tax evasion and tax avoidance.

The Service had consistently struggled to exceed the N5 trillion collection brick wall since 2012 when that barrier was first broken. Despite the best efforts of successive Management, collection per officer continued to fall. However, with the advent of Nami’s Leadership the story has changed entirely with geometric rise and consistent increase in Revenue Generation through Taxation in Nigeria.

As it stands, revenue remitted to various FIRS accounts with CBN at the end of the year 2020 stood at N4.95trillion. This amount shows a slight shortfall compared to the revenue target for the year, which was N5.07 trillion. This was because of the general economic depression, volatile exchange rates, prevailing global economic crises occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and poor tax culture among the populace.

As at 30th November 2021, the Service had collected over 5.03 trillion Naira, being 85% of the national tax target. It projects to meet and even overshoot its target by 31st December 2021.

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