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EFCC Continues Grilling Of Fowler This Week

Embattled former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, is expected to report to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) this Monday or Tuesday with documents to prove his innocence over the tonnes of petitions filed against him. 

Failure to report on those days may, however, may spell doom for him as he may not enjoy the cordiality he enjoyed last week, an EFCC source told New National Star in Abuja on Friday stressing that some conditions were waived for Mr. Fowler to enjoy his freedom. Fowler, who was granted administrative bail last week Tuesday when he pleaded with the anti-graft agents to allow him refresh his memory and get some documents to counter grave allegations against him, was confronted with allegations of graft during his tenure as Permanent Secretary/ Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue. 

A senior official of the anticorruption agency described Mr. Fowler’s file with the Commission as; “ a rotten onion with several layers “, adding that the agency decided to start with his tour of duty in Lagos state before the petitions on FIRS would be opened. Although the invitation looks simple, innocuous and directed at Fowler alone, it was gathered that EFCC decided to use the “monkey tail trick” to unravel some graft cases in Lagos. The monkey tail trick, according to EFCC sources, is to grab the tail of a monkey that jumps inside the bush and drag its tail until it shows its face. 

The former tax boss, according to some parts of the petition, is a conduit in the alleged looting of Lagos state. “He is believed to be the eye of the big man on financial matters”, a source in EFCC informed New National Star. A source informed this newspaper that petitions received on Fowler’s tenure as Executive Chairman of FIRS revealed alleged monumental graft in the Service that are mind-boggling. The former tax chief is also believed to have bent the rules to favour a top politician in the Presidency whose firm got regular contracts while the FIRS often picked bills anytime the politician had personal social events. According to a source in the EFCC, Fowler allegedly did not follow due process in the award of some contracts as Executive Chairman of FIRS. 

For example, a company without a job experience was alleged to have been awarded a “big” contract that made it to get a certain percentage from every transaction. It was gathered that the antigraft agency was investigating a leading hotel in Abuja where several millions of naira were allegedly paid for services not related to tax. Two other hotels, one near the Games village and the other around Jabi-Kado-Life Camp area of Abuja, are also under EFCC’s searchlight. New National Star gathered that the anti-graft agency was also looking at the terms of appointment of those who handled the prosecution for FIRS, abuse of Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC), percentages given to consultants who handled audit jobs, ICT related jobs, procurement and how FIRS paid billions to comedians by buying tables at shows. 

In 2019 when the first set of petitions on FIRS first got to EFCC, it was gathered that the anti-graft body ordered some staff of FIRS, including a director, to refund some money to the Service. it was however not clear how much has been refunded. EFCC sources informed this newspaper that the anti-graft agency might soon move against two Lagos -based journalists whose company was used to withdraw over one billion naira budgeted yearly for communications under Fowler. Efforts to get Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, the spokesperson for the EFCC, to comment on the issue were unsuccessful.

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