Okonjo-Iweala in FIRS top job controversy
The Minister of Finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has come under allegations of breach of due process in the appointment of a substantive executive chairman for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) which is under the supervision of her ministry.
Okonjo-Iweala is being accused of exploiting her office to plant her preferred candidate for the top job, allegedly in defiance of federal character principle and due process requirement in recruitments into federal government positions.
The process for appointing a substantive executive chairman for the FIRS had commenced in April, 2012 with a pronouncement by President Goodluck Jonathan that the position should be advertised and filled through a competitive process to produce the most qualified candidate.
Inside sources however informed Peoples Daily yesterday that Okonjo-Iweala, working in concert with some of her close associates, has allegedly made the process not competitive by blocking candidates from other regions in a bid to pave way for her preferred candidate suspected to lack the requisite experience and qualification in tax administration in Nigeria.
It was gathered that out of close to 30,000 applicants that applied for the job, Okonjo-Iweala and the former chairman of the FIRS, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui chose applicants without scrutinizing their certificates and following approved interview procedures. Among the six candidates shortlisted, one is said to be a graduate of Chemistry.
The criteria adopted to arrive at the three names that were shortlisted were also controversial, the source said, adding that the next chairman of FIRS may be someone who has never paid tax in Nigeria in the last five years because she is ordinarily resident abroad.
“It’s also important to note that out of 52 years of Nigeria’s independence, the leadership position was only occupied by a northerner for only five years and the fact that last eight years have been occupied by southerners logically mean the position should now come to the northern part of Nigeria.
“What baffled all those that applied for the job, was that nobody was asked to present his claimed academic or evidence of experience stated in the application for verification. The criteria adopted to arrive at the three names are best known to Ifueko and Okonjo-Iweala,” the source said.
All the six candidates are from one geo-political zone of the country without recourse to federal character principle as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was gathered.
Our source said that several applicants who felt shortchanged by the manipulative process have challenged the propriety of appointing external consultants, Phillips Consulting, to carry out a process, which is ordinarily the prerogative of the President.
According to him: “It was the view of several applicants that the President was unduly ceding his powers to Consultants on the misleading advice of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
“It was also felt that the process and criteria adopted by the consultants was illegal as the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2007 clearly provided that the appointment of the Executive Chairman of the FIRS was to be done by the President subject to the confirmation of the Senate. The Act did not create room for the use of Consultants to carry out a process, which would have been better handled by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as has been previously done. In addition, the criteria put out by the Consultants were at variance with the requirements in the FIRS (Establishment),” he said.
A reliable source within the Ministry of Finance, who did not want to be named, stated that various persons within the Ministry had queried the process adopted by the Minister in arriving at the list of persons who were invited to the interview, adding that only the Minister and the Permanent Secretary were involved in the selection process and only they knew or could state what criteria they adopted.
“The involvement of the immediate past Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui Okauru in the process was also queried because being the immediate past Executive Chairman, she is an interested party, whose neutrality cannot be guaranteed,” the source said.
“It’s unfortunate that, the appointment into the 2nd highest revenue generating body next to oil in Nigeria should be left in the hands of two ladies whose judgments are suspect,” the source said.
For example, it was rumoured that she facilitated the appointment of the current Acting Executive Chairman, FIRS, Alhaji Kabir Mashi, even though he was not the most senior officer of the FIRS at the time that Mrs. Okauru left office and is not qualified for the position. The source noted that Mrs. Okauru’s attempts to ensure Alhaji Mashi was invited for the interview failed as it was pointed out that he did not have the required qualifications set out in the advertisement for the position.
However, all attempts to contact the Federal Ministry of Finance for their response to the allegations failed as the spokesman of the Ministry, Mr. Paul Nwabuiku, who is the Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, did not respond to several calls and text messages sent to his mobile phone.