By Andrew Okonkwo
Anybody who knew the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) before the advent of the administration of Muhammad Nami would in all fairness concede that he has remarkably used his salient administrative skills to improve the operations of the apex tax body. His dexterity in achieving an upward swing in revenue generation has much to do with his administrative skills than the deployment of technology.
To understand the road Nami traveled before arriving at this destination, there is a need to look back at the state of affairs in the Service before he happened. It will not be overstating the fact to say that the state of disrepair, staff disorientation, and demotivation in the Service when Nami took over the reins of leadership, was legendary. There was a backlog of more than ten years of promotions, the reporting line was skewed and obsequious, the structure was straitjacketed, and work ethics were thrown overboard. Staff allowances were not regularly paid which thereby affected staff morale and caused disenchantment.
With this overt climate of the insufferable condition of service prevailing at the time of his assumption of office, there is no gainsaying the fact that the task he found himself handling required tact, circumspection, and astute administrative skills. And Nami rose to the occasion. He navigated the turbulent economic climate occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, the dwindled oil revenue, and the EndSars protest to post an impressive record of revenue generation. Today, the country relies on the non-oil tax revenue being administered by Nami’s leadership.
One thing that stands out for Nami, besides his ability to manage people and resources, is his ability to headhunt and identify resourceful people who are fit for various tasks and offices. The first thing he did when he assumed the mantle of leadership of the Service was to reorganize the structure of the Service. In doing this, he freed up offices, created new departments, additional state coordination, fourteen satellite offices, and more functions thereby making it possible for promotions to happen and staff to aspire to higher offices and responsibilities.
He similarly restored to the staff functions that were given to consultants which made it possible to harness the potentials and initiatives of the staff. One important result of this is the in-house building and implementation of the now famous TaxPro-Max, his baby which is yielding astronomical revenue haul for the country. This remarkable achievement could only have been possible with one that has administrative skills and the foresight to see beyond the here and now.
In the same vein, fixing the right people in the right positions as well as utilizing the experience and expertise of retiring officers of the Service has helped greatly in shoring up some gaps which would have put the Service in a serious manpower deficit. Therefore, being able to mix both the experienced and the upstarts has helped to entrench mentorship and succession plans in the Service. This trend would surely bring about inbreeding and quality manpower that would be capable of standing up to any headwinds.
From the inception of his administration, Nami has maintained a studious approach to administering the affairs of the Service by setting up some cardinal goals for the organization, which are rebuilding the FIRS institutional framework, making the Service data-centric, and customer-centric, and having a robust stakeholder collaboration. And these are not just mere concepts.
True to his words, he has religiously fixed his focus on achieving these goals against all odds. That is why presently he has created a department called Intelligence Strategic Data Mining and Analysis in the Service. He equally established Special Tax, Tax Incentives Management, and Special Crimes and Investigation Departments as a way of strengthening the mechanism of tax collection and administration. He has also maintained a close engagement with all facets of stakeholders to enhance the visibility of the Service and enhance its operations.
Nami has equally applied his leadership and administrative skills through wide consultation with both internal and external stakeholders in policy formulation toward enhancing workflow and work ethics within the system. This has resulted in the formulation of the right policies and reduced roles conflict considerably. Reporting lines have also been strengthened and redefined in a way that has put the staff on a sound footing for enhanced productivity. This is done through constant and rigorous performance evaluation.
All these point to the fact that Nami’s administrative skills manifest consummate leadership qualities and performative vision. Nami understands the intricate combination of administration, leadership, and vision for the attainment of organizational goals. That is why he has been able to raise the bar of revenue collection to an all-time high. And in the coming years he will do even better.
Andrew Okonkwo writes from Abuja.