FIRS: What Fowler is bringing to the table (1)

Tunde Fowler

Tunde Fowler

In December 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and Joint Tax Board (JTB) confirmed a widely held suspicion: Lagos is the only state in the federation that will remain afloat and even thrive if the tap of the Federation Account is turned off.

The confirmation was based on figures from the two bodies and they showed that Lagos State earned more revenue, internally, than any other state between 2010 and 2012.

Broken down, the figures show that the state earned N185.9 billion in 2010, N202.76 billion in 2011 and N219.2 billion in 2012.

Of the N219.2 billion in 2012, Lagos earned the highest revenue of   N172.44 billion from PAYE, while the sum  of   N4.36 billion came from road taxes, N1.89 billion from direct assessment of companies resident in the state and N40.513 billion came from other revenue sources.

Around N120.25 billion was generated through PAYE in 2011; N7.97 billion from direct assessment, and N74.54 billion from other sources, while N104.681 billion came from PAYE in 2010; N7.51 billion from direct sources, and N73.704 billion from other sources.

Even Rivers, which sits atop vast oil deposits and enjoys vast revenues from resource, would require a pair of binoculars, from its second position on the internally generated revenue log, to see Lagos in first position. The oil rich state earned N49.59 billion in 2010; N57.19 billion in 2011 and N66.28 billion in 2012.  The sum of N55.1 billion came from PAYE in 2012; N485.9 million through road taxes; N22.075 million through direct tax assessment and N10.668 million through other revenue sources.

The spectacular results posted by Lagos at the time, before then and still being posted are traceable to the single-mindedness of Mr. Babatunde Fowler,  recently appointed  Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Fowler’s decade-long stint as Chairman, Lagos Board of Internal Revenue and Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) witnessed a complete remodeling of the tax architecture of Lagos and the achievement makes him exactly what the FIRS needs.

FIRS, sure, is a bigger pond than LIRS, but Fowler has proved, convincingly, that he is a man for big things.
In 10 years, he masterminded the growth of internally generated revenue of Lagos State from a monthly average of N6billion to that of over N20billion and made LIRS the example to copy in tax administration.

Fowler’s revolution was helped by the administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, which succeeded the military in 1999 when democracy returned.

The Tinubu administration inherited a meagre monthly average of N600million as internally generated revenue which, when added to similarly lean allocation from the Federation Account, still left a wide gap between its promise to Lagosians and the resources available.

The administration had to find a way or risk being laughed out of town as a government high on promises, but low on delivery.
It found a way, which was to look at what it could raise internally to execute its programmes.

With the status of the state as the country’s commercial nerve centre, the administration realised that it was sitting on vast financial resources in the form of internally generated revenue.

• Toluju, a businessman, writes from Igando, Lagos

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