The crisis of confidence that has rocked the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, may be over following the rapprochement between the Labour unions and the Executive Chairman, Mr. Babatunde Fowler.
The unions has threatened to shut down the services of the agency, in what insiders suspected to be a ploy to pull down Fowler, who is coming up for extension of tenure in August.
In the heat of the face-off between the parties, the office of the Secretary to The Government of the Federation had cautioned FIRS management to avoid throwing the nation’s economy into further crisis.
Correspondences between the National Civil Service Union, NSCU and the management of the nation’s apex revenue agency on one hand and between the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the other indicated that there was a lingering industrial crisis, following alleged policy summersaults and inappropriate recruitment procedures into the service, according to some reports.
The unions accused management of deliberately stagnating staff promotions, while embarking on external recruitment to fill in management positions without recourse to due processes.
In a letter to the Executive Chairman, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, the National Civil Service Union, NCSU, noted that, the resolution by workers of the FIRS to give notice of planned shutdown of the agencies operations followed a communique earlier issued after their meeting, in which they pointed out the alleged wrongful recruitment and neglect of their promotion, which was ignored by the management.
They argued that, while the FIRS parades qualified and capable hands who are due for promotions, the management side-stepped due processes and embarked on clandestine recruitment of outsiders to fill management positions.
Bit, in what appears to be a patch-up of the romance between the parties, it was gathered that both management and unions have re-dedicated to the N8.8 trillion revenue target, while Fowler has upped the scale on staff welfare
According to an insider, the two labour unions have reassured that they will put in their utmost towards the realisation of the N8.8 trillion revenue target for 2019.
Comrade Okere Samson, Chairman, FIRS Chapter of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) and Comrade Idris Hassan of the Nigerian Civil Service Union, NCSU (FIRS chapter) gave this re-assurance during the week after their meetings with FIRS Executive Chairman, Tunde Fowler.
The embattled Executive Chairman, it was learnt, improved the scale on staff welfare and unfolded a range of pro-staff decisions that will enable staff to realise their individual and organization goals. Fowler jerked up subsistence allowance from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, (it was 10 per cent in the pre-Fowler era), pegged payment of Key Performance Indicators at 70 per cent instead of 80 per cent for non-oil tax receipts, directed expedited payment of first 28 Days Movement Allowances to staff on transfer, okayed meal, children education and maintenance grants –once staff meet target and attain some consensus on the vacancies for 2018 and 2019 promotion exercises.
Apart from increase of Subsistence allowance to 30 per cent, from 10 per cent before Fowler’s tenure, staff have also been paid Wardrobe allowances, quarterly collection bonus if staff meet or exceed set target in revenue collection, 13th month salary and approved the payment of equity contribution to benefiting staff of the FIRS Mass Housing Scheme. An amount has been provided in the 2019 budget for to this effect.
In two documents circulated to all staff titled “Update on Staff Matters signed by Comrade Okere Samson, and another signed by Comrade Idris Hassan and Comrade Jimoh Idowu the two union Chairmen rededicated their commitment and that of their members to the realisation of the N8. 8 trillion target of the Service.
The two documents detailed staff welfare issues discussed at a meeting between the two unions and FIRS Management held on 6thJune and another held on 10th June 2019 as well as resolutions reached.
The Chairman of the NCSU, Comrade Idris Hassan said that “This is to inform FIRS Staff that following continuous engagement between Nigeria Civil Service Union, (NCSU) and Management of the FIRS, Management has been able to address most of the issues raised like increment of subsistence allowance to 30 %, reduction of KPI (Key Performance Indicators) benchmark from 80 % to 70% of non-oil, and payment of terminal benefits to staff among others.
Idris concluded in another document circulated to all staff titled: MATTERS ARISING FROM THE NCSU MEETING WITH MANAGEMENT: Based on the above, the Union hereby employs all staff to be of good behaviour, remain dedicated and hardworking in order to achieve the set Revenue Target for the Service. We, the Executive of NCSU assure our members and entire staff of the Service of our support and also continue to engage Management for better welfare and reward hard work. We equally assure Management of our continuous support as partners in progress towards the actualisation of the goals and objectives of the Service.
On the other hand, Comrade Okere, the Chairman of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) concluded with a counsel to the staff: “In view of this, we are encouraging all staff to work harder towards ensuring that the Service realises its 2019 revenue target, while we keep engaging the Management to always appreciate and reward staff for hard work. We thank you for your support. Please avoid any act that will jeopardise government’s revenue.
On proposed staff grants such as meal subsidies, children’s education and furniture maintenance grants, Okere said that the FIRS Chairman has directed the Director Human Capital to implement the payment of the grants once the FIRS attains 70 per cent of its non-oil revenue target after the third quarter of the year.
All outstanding severance benefits to retired staff have been approved for payment to staff that exited the Service since November 2018, while the FIRS Chairman directed that more working tools such as printers, laptops and furniture be provided by Directors in charge of Facility and Efficiency to ensure timely distribution of such tools to field offices.
On the 2018 and 2019 promotion exercise, the FIRS Chairman, Mr. Tunde Fowler, stated Okere, directed the association to meet with the Director, Human Capital Management Department for a review of the promotion vacancies and revert to the Management for approval.
Specifically on those who passed but were not accommodated on account of vacancies, the NCSU Chairman, Comrade Idris Hassan said the “Chairman (Fowler) directed the Union to liaise with the Director Human Capital and Director, Legal to work out modality on how to resolve the issues within the ambit and provisions of the laws and the HRPP, (Human Resources Policies and Processes).
The FIRS Chairman assured staff that all outstanding severance benefits to retired staff have been approved for payment to staff that exited the Service since November 2018.
A source at the meeting quoted Fowler as re-assuring the union leaders that other demands of the two unions will be met once FIRS could generate substantial revenue from non-oil sources. He added though that there must be a balancing act in such a way that staff remuneration does not hamper the ability of the FIRS to provide working tools and space for the FIRS workforce.