Nigeria gets 2nd term to head African Tax Forum
After his first term from 2016 to 2018, a Nigerian and Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, has been re-elected to head the Council of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) for a fresh two-year term.
A statement by FIRS Communications Head, Wahab Gbadamosi said Fowler was returned unopposed by all ATAF Council members at the Forum’s 5th General Assembly meeting, Wednesday in Gaborone, Botswana.
“He led the organisation in the last two years, with commendable applause from members of the organisation. His candidature was not opposed by any of the 26 countries that participated in the election.
Burundi, Burkina Faso and Mauritius slotted it out in for the Vice-Chairman’s position. Mauritius won”, the statement added.
Established in 2009.ATAF, the continental association of tax authorities has 38 members.
Two years ago, in Johannesburg, the FIRS Chief Executive took over from the Commissioner General of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Mr. Gershem T. Pasi. Fowler will preside over the affairs of the Forum from 2018 till 2020.
Fowler is an inspiration to ATAF. Two years ago, he delivered a seminar at the African Tax Administration Forum-International Monetary Fund (ATAF-IMF) organised brain-storming session where isolated how to make taxation work for Africa
Tunde Fowler was born to the family of Professor (Dr) and (Chief) Mrs. W.V. Fowler both of Lagos State, Nigeria. He studied in the United States of America at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, where he obtained his first bachelor’s degree with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a minor in Political Science in 1978. He completed a second bachelor’s degree program at California State University, Los Angeles and also a Master of Business Administration degree program at California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1981.
Before he was appointed the Executive Chairman, FIRS and Chairman Joint Tax Board (JTB) on 18th August, 2015 by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to oversee activities at the FIRS and drive the change agenda of the administration in the tax sector, Fowler had made a bold imprint on the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) as its Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue between 2006 and 2015.
Some of his achievements in Lagos include:
- A sharp increase in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from an average of N3.6 Billion monthly as at January, 2006 to an average of over N23 Billion monthly as at June, 2015;
- Improved quality of service delivery to taxpayers;
- Improvement in the use of IT and other modern methods of tax administration;
- An unprecedented enlightenment campaign on tax administration and education in Africa.
These reforms made Lagos State the only state in the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is financially independent of the monthly financial allocation of revenue from the Federation Account and also the only State that generates internally, more revenue than the monthly allocation from the Federation Account. The state is presently able to meet to a considerable degree, the enormous demands for infrastructure and services from the exploding population presently put at over 21 million.
Fowler has been honoured as a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Ghana and is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, ICAN in Nigeria.
In the last two years, Fowler has collected a total of N7 trillion in taxes as Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) and introduced 6- e-Solutions to ensure that taxpayers can file and pay their taxes 24/7, anywhere, anytime.
Fowler ran a tax amnesty programme and the Voluntary Assets Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS, which fetched the nation almost N100 billion in tax receipts. He has began closing in on defaulting billionaire taxpayers with the bank account substitution scheme; jerked up national tax roll in conjunction with States Internal Revenue Authorities (SIRS)- to about 19 million and is ramping up other defaulters with national tax audit programme and enforcement schemes.
In recognition of the above, Mr. William Babatunde Fowler was awarded Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in 2004, conferred with fellowship ‘Honoris Causa’ by Certified Board of Administrators of Nigeria in May 2007 and Professional Honorary Doctorate Degree in June 2007 by the Irish International University. He is also a Fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and Business Management Association (UK).
He started out as a Marketing Intern with Avon Products Inc. New York working under the Vice President in charge of Africa. Having completed his formal education, he was employed by Johnson and Johnson in New Jersey USA, thereafter he was transferred to join Johnson and Johnson, Nigeria between September 1982 and September 1983.
He made a career change from International Finance and Marketing to Banking in January 1984. In the banking industry, he had the opportunity to work and also head broad and varied areas of banking operations and business development in two major commercial banks over the next 20 years.
He joined Commercial Bank (Credit Lyonnais Nigeria Limited) in January 1984, where he was exposed to all aspects of International Banking, Risk Management, and Clearing Operations. He introduced positive reforms as the Treasurer of the bank. He was a foundation member and trustee of the now Money Market Association of Nigeria. His banking experience at Commercial Bank (Credit Lyonnais Nigeria Limited) came to conclusion with his last appointment as the Apapa Branch Manager, the first branch of the bank outside the head office.
He left Commercial Bank (Credit Lyonnais Nigeria Limited) in March 1990 to join Chartered Bank in April 1990 as a Senior Manager where he spent the next 14 years. His initial posting was as Head of Branch Network during which he successfully grew the bank’s branches from two to 11 branches, spread over the country within the first five years. He was also in charge of revenue collections for both State and Federal agencies, which he grew, placing the bank amongst the top three banks in all collections. He demonstrated excellence as a seasoned banker and administrator until he left the organization as a General Manager in March 2004.
Upon leaving the banking industry in 2004, Mr. Fowler joined the Lagos State Government and was appointed the pioneer Permanent Secretary/Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue on the 24th of November 2005, thereby upgrading the office of the Executive Chairman to the highest level in the Civil Service.
Under Fowler, ATAF has recorded tremendous strides in the last two and half years. In Abuja last year ATAF launched a landmark ATAF Transfer Pricing Toolkit, which has and is assisting African countries in preventing huge financial loses through new Transfer Pricing Rules. Many African Tax Authorities are leveraging on the toolkit to contain financial leakages from their economy.
Also, ATAF under Fowler has given the African continent a global voice in global Tax Matters. For instance, ATAF is leading the world in African position on Tax Affairs, with its representation on High Level Talks on stemming Illicit Financial Flows, IFF. ATAF, under Fowler has also launched the African Tax Outlook, through which African Tax administrations are sharing data.
The organisation has also strengthened the capacities of African Tax Administration Authorities, with its organisation of quality technical training on the continent
When he declared the conference open on Monday, Fowler noted that attendance of 35 countries at the event – (of 38 members) — reflect the value and appreciation attached to the role ATAF continues to play in leading and shaping tax matters on the African Continent. He noted too that the attendance reinforces members support for and participation in the ATAF agenda.
The ATAF Chairman noted that the ATAF Council considers this General Assembly, as pivotal in ATAF’s journey. Said Fowler: “We take cognisance of the fact that this is the tenth year of its operations and as such, we are delighted that for the last two years, as the Council, we have been deeply engaged in providing the organisation with the direction required to meet its mandate to support the forging of effective and efficient tax systems in Africa.
“This is a time for reflection and a time for renewal. We have no doubt, that the foundation and current health of the organisation is robust, and ready to propel the work of ATAF into the next 10 years that can only be productive, focussed and support Africa as articulated in its Agenda 2063.
“ The sitting Council of ATAF which I have been privileged to Chair for the last two years, held its last meeting ahead of tomorrow’s (today 24th October 2018) election of a new Council. It is with a sense of pride and great achievement that we have been able to serve the ATAF membership. The work of the organisation is at the peak of its visibility both at the continental level, and globally. The recent recognition of ATAF’s work by the African Union during the July Assembly of its Heads of State and Government in Mauritania, as well as the most recent acceptance of ATAF as a member to two sub committees, of the UN Experts on Mutual Tax Matters (ODA and Tax Treaties) that took place last week in Geneva-Switzerland, is a clear manifestation of the global and continental recognition and endorsement of ATAF as the lead voice on African taxation. This is a vision that we as Council, have steadily promoted, in our tenure, and that we have no doubt the new Council will strengthen and advance this vision.
“The ATAF 5th General Assembly is taking place at a time of increased globalisation and at the time when many countries on the continent are realising and appreciating the benefits of free movement of goods, labour and capital. We are witnessing an increasingly interconnected Africa in an interconnected world. These developments provide both opportunities and challenges when it comes to tax administration. The growing sophistication in tax evasion and avoidance is a major threat that no single country can successfully tackle “individually. But it can be fought collectively and that is why ATAF Committees including those meeting here this week are sharing experience, developing common solutions and a voice for Africa in this area.
“To assist our membership directly in creating strong tax systems, ATAF is increasing its support to revenue administrations through technical assistance programmes covering both international and domestic taxes focused on the specific needs of members. As Heads of administrations, it is crucial that we take advantage of the technical support that ATAF offers through both its country programmes and applied research and capacity building programmes. We anticipate that over the next few days this General Assembly will have an opportunity to consider in detail some of the new initiatives that ATAF has in these areas.
“One proposal which I find exciting is the implementation of what we refer to as a Commissioner’s- General Master Dialogue, where Heads of tax administrations would be invited to share their experience, develop solutions, input directly into the ATAF agenda and guide the secretariat in the development of relevant programs tailored to Africa’s needs. It would be useful to get views on this. This couldn’t come at a better time, given that this Council recently approved the ATAF Policy Framework for Technical Assistance and “Digitisation is a challenge which could also turn into an opportunity if African tax administrations rise to the task. We need to recognise the pace of this process but also seize our opportunity as Africans to develop uniquely African approaches using technology in new and imaginative ways. This General Assembly is an opportunity to discuss such globally topical challenges and encourage you all to seize it. In all our discussions, we must be guided by the spirit of pro-activeness. The African voice must continue to be heard and listened to on tax issues. We can only avoid the “catch up Syndrome” by investing in new research, new innovations and modern tax practices and collectively develop innovative solutions that grow out of the realities of our economies”.
The ATAF Chairman, who is also the first Vice Chairman of the United Nations International Experts on Tax Matters, noted that the theme of the 5th General Assembly is “Moving Africa Beyond Aid through Tax Revenue mobilisation” is key to sustainable developments in Africa. “While aid is important to usher us to self-sustainability and leads to development when well utilised, it is crucial for African countries to look inward, modernise their tax systems and generate revenue through increased effectiveness in tax mobilisation. This is indeed more sustainable and reliable for development and since it happened elsewhere, there is no reason why it cannot happen in Africa. It is critical that we deepen our engagement with development partners to ensure that their promised support is efficiently delivered and effectively used and that we tap into their experience as we shape the tax agenda for our continent.
He encouraged ATAF, as the leading body on the African continent in tax matters, to continue to promote efficiency and effectiveness of the tax administrations through its mandate and subsequent programmes.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank my colleagues on Council for the stellar work done in the last two years. It has been a great pleasure for me to lead you and I would like to thank the Secretariat for their tenacity in delivering ATAF’s mandate to support effective revenue mobilisation on the continent. We leave a solid organisational structure, clear policies and strong relationships with development partners in place. This is a platform for an organisation on the move, and with your ever-strengthening commitment to our common objective we anticipate the future decade for ATAF to be both productive and exciting”, he said.