In the interest of sustaining our democracy, it is important that institutions in Nigeria and the Nigerian people as a whole begin to see the laws that are meant to guide us as roadmaps that will help in establishing lasting precedents. This has become necessary in this eventful political climate where numerous political interests are currently at play.
For example: in 1999, when the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was instituted as the supreme law of the land, and Section 50(1)(a), established that there shall be a President of the Senate, nobody had the current Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki in mind.
Similarly, in 2007, when the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Establishmen Act was passed and signed into law, and Section 3(2)(a) specified that the Executive Chairman of the FIRS shall be appointed by the President and be “subject to the confirmation of the Senate,” nobody had Babatunde Fowler – Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s anointed candidate in mind. However, laws are laws, and neither the force of coordinated media barrages, or the discomfort of attempted political coercion can change the letter of the law.
What the aforementioned should signify to every Nigerian that truly cares about the sanity of our democracy is that the laws of the land are established to be the overarching restraints against the interests and inconstancy of individuals. Laws, like the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the FIRS ACT, were established as straightforward guides to ensure that in times like these, processes are already in place to ensure that the competency of candidates that have been nominated by the executive branch of government, receive the necessary support or opposition of the legislative branch.
As a former Senator of the Federal Republic, Tinubu must understand that despite his opinion about Dr. Saraki’s Senate Presidency, the presiding officers of the Senate do not constitute the entire composition of the Upper Legislative Chamber. What this means is that if truly, Tinubu has put forward a credible candidate to take over as Nigeria’s ‘Number 1 Tax Collector’, then he has nothing to worry about.
However, if Tinubu has knowingly put forward a candidate with questionable performance credentials and character questions – like Babatunde Fowler has been alleged to have – then neither the power of the media, nor the partisanship and camaraderie of the ruling party should be used to protect his nomination. The APC’s recent outing in the 2015 general elections should signal that the days of ‘business as usual’ antics are over. Nigerians have reached a new era in our collective awareness that is characterized by our endorsement of performance over nepotism.
For example, a preliminary Google search of Babatunde Fowler will immediately reveal allegations that point to him using the Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS) to channel funds to Bola Ahmed Tinubu using a proxy consultancy company called Alpha Beta Consultancy Limited. To ensure that the Senate fulfils its role as an oversight body, and as the institution tasked with the burden of confirming nominees to ensure that these nominees represent the best interest of Nigerians, Mr. Fowler (formerly ‘Dr. Fowler’), must be made to explain why many Lagosians believe that up to 15% of Lagos States’ taxes were paid to Tinubu’s Alpha Beta Consultancy.
Additionally, online searches provide further details into the aforementioned allegations, revealing that under Fowler’s watch, the LIRS impressively achieved a sharp increase in internally generated revenue (IGR) from an average of N3.6 billion per month in January 2006, to an average of about N20.5 billion per month in 2013. However, with this spike in IGR, Alpha Beta is believed to have been collecting up to N3.075 billion per month, or roughly N36.9 billion per year. Is collating receipts on behalf of a state government really that profitable?
In this regard, for Nigerians to fully trust that the man nominated to ensure that they pay their taxes over the next four years is not just some ‘puppet on a mission’ in someone else’s quest to make an entire country his personal piggy bank and political playground, Mr. Fowler must also provide detailed evidence about why it was necessary for Lagos State to pay the alleged billions of Naira per month to one consultancy company – as opposed to sharing the services amongst several companies in the interest of fair play.
As it stands, based on the campaign promises of the ruling party, the APC-led Senate owes it to Nigerians to arrive at convincing answers on whether or not Fowler has the moral authority to assume the role as the FIRS boss.
Additionally, moving forward, in the screening of candidates nominated by the executive branch, the Senate must ensure that the previous tradition of making confirmation exercises an insult to the democratic system of checks and balances must be stopped. Nigerians voted in this government to be thorough and conscientious in their approach, hence, we expect all Senate confirmation screenings to be conducted with meticulous precision, therefore, ‘bow and go’ will not be tolerated.
I rest my case.
-Oluwatosin Fabiyi writes from Lagos.
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