By Eric Elezuo
His steady accomplishments speak volumes, and that has been the reason he remains the beautiful and most sought after bride of every administration. His name is Babatunde Fowler. He is the indefatigable Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Born on August 12, 1956, Dr. Babatunde Fowler is a distinguished tax administrator and social reformer. Prior to occupying his present office, Mr. Fowler was the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue and Chief Executive Officer Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS).
Dr. Babatunde Fowler was born to the family of Professor (Dr.) and Chief (Mrs.) W.V. Fowler both of Lagos State. He attended the prestigious Igbobi College in Lagos and studied in the United States of America at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he obtained a B.Sc in Economics with a minor in Political Science in 1978.
A well-read professional, he completed a second Bachelor’s degree programme at California State University, Los Angeles and also a Master of Business Administration degree program at California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1981.
He started his profession as a Marketing Intern with Avon Products Inc., New York, under the supervision of the Vice President in charge of Africa. He followed it up with an employment by Johnson and Johnson in New Jersey USA, under the MBA International Development Program lasting one year, thereafter he was transferred to join Johnson and Johnson Nigeria where he stayed between September 1982 and September 1983.
In 1984, he made a career change, moving from International Finance and Marketing to Banking. He also worked in the banking industry and headed broad and varied areas of banking operations and business development in two major commercial banks over the next 20 years.
His first port of call was Credit Lyonnais Nigeria Limited (Commercial Bank), where he was exposed to all aspects of International Banking, Risk Management, and Clearing Operations. He also introduced positive reforms as the treasurer of the bank and was a foundation member and trustee of the now Money Market Association of Nigeria.
When the bank opened its first branch outside the head office, he was counted worthy to become its manager. That position marked his last banking experience at Commercial Bank (Credit Lyonnais Nigeria Limited).
In April 1990 after leaving Commercial Bank, he joined Chartered Bank as a Senior Manager where he spent his last 14 years in the banking industry. His initial posting was Head of Branch Network during which he successfully grew the bank’s branches from two to 11 spread across 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 3 banks in all collections. He was able to prove himself as a seasoned banker and administrator until he left the organization as a General Manager in March 2004.
Fowler joined the Lagos State Government thereafter, and was appointed Permanent Secretary/Executive Chairman of the Lagos State board of internal revenue on November 24, 2005, thereby upgrading the office of the executive chairman to the highest level in the civil service.
He brought his expertise to bear, and with time, the Board of Internal Revenue became autonomous and self-accounting with the passage into law in January 2006 of the Lagos State Revenue Administration Law (the first Revenue Board to become autonomous in Nigeria). He subsequently became the first CEO of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) and Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue.
With Fowler in the driving seat, the new Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue achieved the following within eight years of operation: A sharp increase in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from an average of N 3.6 Billion per month in January 2006 to an average of over N20.5 Billion per month in 2014; improved quality of service delivery to taxpayers, improvement in the use of IT and other modern methods of tax administration, an enlightenment campaign on tax administration and education in Africa.
Fowler’s efforts ensured that Lagos State becomes 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.
His prolific actions in tax matters and revenue generation and collection caught the attention of the government at the centre, and he was relieved of his duties at the state level and offered a national appointment. It didn’t take him time for him to find his footing in a terrain where he is well versed, and today, the Federal Government is celebrating a revenue haul in trillions of naira.
It was not only the Nigerian government that acknowledged Fowler’s importance on the job, he was recognized as well by the international community. Consequently, when in August 2017, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guteress, announced the appointment of 25 members in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Fowler was named a member. He was elected the 1st Vice Chairman of the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters. The 25 tax experts were headhunted across the globe to sit on the Committee and proffer solutions to issues on international taxation and cooperation.
Happily married to Mrs. Rosemary Fowler, and blessed with children, Fowler is trailed by honours for his numerous achievements. Among them are:
1. Honorary Senior Member of The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in 2004
2. ‘Honoris Causa’ by Certified Board of Administrators of Nigeria in May 2007.
3. Outstanding Government Personality of the Year (2014) by the organisers of the Leadership Award for African Achievers.
As a way of giving back to the society, Fowler has stimulated interest and raised awareness on tax education at an early stage in life, through the introduction of a competition for pupils which is funded by his board in which winners are given cash awards and scholarships.
Sir, for being hardworking, resilient and successful in your field of endeavor, you deserve the honour of The Boss of the Week. Congratulations!