FIRS still at daggers drawn with its retired directors

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Nami

By Anayo Ezugwu

THE Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, is still at daggers drawn with the directors it recently retired from the service. The bone of contention is the claims in the recent advertorial which the FIRS published justifying its actions on the directors who were retired prematurely because they had not reached retirement age and had not served up to eight years as required by a presidential directive.

The FIRS management has denied all the allegations made against it for wrongfully retiring directors of the organisation and employing contract staff without going through normal employment procedures. The revenue agency in the advertorial stressed that its actions were within the rules and procedure of the FIRS.

However, the retired staff of the agency disagreed, asking the agency to acknowledge its errors and make amends, noting that the FIRS as an autonomous organisation is not above the law. They cited the FIRS Establishment Act 1: 3, which stated that “The Service shall have such powers and duties as are conferred on it by this Act or by any other enactment or law on such matters on which the National Assembly has the power to make law.”

According to the advertorial published by some media houses, FIRS denied the allegations that it ignored the 2016 Federal Civil Services Rules and Guidelines enacted by the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration in sacking directors. FIRS stated that the presidential directive wasn’t binding on the service.

The FIRS advertorial noted that the retirement of the directors was done in accordance with the rules and followed due process as it was approved by the Board. “Secondly, on the issue of using old Civil Service Rule at the expense of the new rule, it must be noted that FIRS (the Service), was established pursuant to FIRS (Establishment) Act 2007, as a Public Service and not a Civil Service.

“There is a lot of difference between Civil Service and Public Service. Civil Service covers Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government without autonomous Status, while Public Service includes among others FIRS, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, with autonomous status and functional Board of Directors. As such the circular couldn’t have been binding on the Service.

“The Service did not disobey the new regulation suspending the eight (8) year tenure rule. Of course, it is easy to see that the previous management did not retire Directors because there was no Board in place, and so it operated solely thereby determined the rules to implement and those to disobey with a huge media support from the likes of the media organisations under reference.”

But the sacked directors disagreed with the position of the FIRS. They stated that either as a public service or civil service, FIRS is obliged to obey the presidential directive. According to them, the public service rules interestingly in 010101 explained clearly those that are subject to the public service rules; and any other similar organs that derive their appointments from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are concerned.

They stated that these rules apply only to the extent that they are not inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in so far as their conditions of service and any other law applicable to these officers are concerned. “So the argument that since FIRS is part of the public service and not civil service that presidential directives or circulars signed by the Head of Service which they were duly copied does not apply to them is false and a baseless argument.

“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 organization 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 who spoke to Realnews are of the belief that the previous management did not retire staff not because there was no board but simply because they realized the illegality of such a decision,” they said.

According to the sacked directors, in its deliberate effort to deceive people and cover-up its illegality the advertorial by FIRS deliberately omitted certain keywords from their 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 their 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 sacked 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 authorized by law to issue such.

“So the question is, is FIRS board authorized 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 sacked 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 in a statement they made available to Realnews recently.

The statement asked: “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 organization 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 organization 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 honorable thing for FIRS to do is to acknowledge their errors and duly make amends for such obnoxious decisions,” the sacked directors advised.

– Jun. 19, 2020 @ 16:55 GMT |

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