Alleged N90bn FIRS fund: Osinbajo tells Vanguard to retract story or face lawsuit

By Shola Abayomi.

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has described as reckless and derogatory, a publication on the Vanguard Newspaper in which a former chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Timi Frank asserted that the VP was being perscuted by the presidency cabal for allegedly mismanaging a N90 billion campaign fund reportedly released by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to the APC to prosecute the 2019 general elections in the South West.

Although, the FIRS has long debunked the claims, stating that in the last four years, the agency hasn’t received up to N90bn per annum as cost of collection from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC, hence, makes it implausible to commit its resources to a phantom campaign of N90 billion as reported, Mr. Timi Frank in a latest report maintained his assertion.

Frank said, “I read the statement by the Federal Inland Revenue Service and I am rather disappointed at their intellectual laziness.

“Who is the FIRS trying to fool by claiming that their annual subvention is not up to a N100 billion? That is an unintelligent attempt to fool the public.

“The FIRS, like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission are revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government that do not depend on budgetary subventions.

“These agencies are able to appropriate huge funds from the monies they generate for their use.”

The former APC deputy spokesperson urged the FIRS to come clean and explain the discrepancies in their records of tax collection.

He added, “For example, on January 7, 2019, the Federal Inland Revenue Service announced that it had broken Nigeria’s all-time revenue generation record, by generating N5.3trillion in 2018.

“However, on 18th August, 2019, the FIRS’ boss was queried for poor performance and under-remittances to the Federation Account by the Chief of Staff to General Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Abba Kyari.

“Kyari’s letter to the FIRS’s boss, Tunde Fowler, was to the intent that the reported ‘record breaking’ revenue the agency claimed to have generated was in reality not up to the revenues generated in the previous Peoples Democratic Party-led administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

“The query, which was widely published in all newspapers and online media channels, was as a result of the N90billion that the FIRS illegally funneled to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for the 2019 elections which led to the shortfall.

“The FIRS should bury their head in the mud and apologise to Nigerians for aiding and abetting corruption.”

In swift reaction, the Vice President through his counsel, Femi Falana (SAN) noted that the entire publication was a vicious, wicked and reckless ploy to malign his reputation as it lacked any iota of evidence.

In a letter to Vanguard Newspaper, Falana demanded an immediate retraction of the publication, coupled with an apology prominently published in the national daily.

He threatened that failure to meet up with the demands within 24 hours of acknowledging receipt of the letter, legal remedies shall be sought in court.

The letter read in part, “We are solicitors to Professor Yemi Osinbanjo SAN, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (hereinafter referred to as “our client”) on whose behalf and instructions we write this letter.

“Our client’s attention has been drawn to your highly libelous story entitled “N90 bn FIRS election fund, Osinbanjo’s problem, not 2023 politics-Frank” recklessly published in the Vanguard newspaper edition of September 23, 2019.

“In the story credited to one Comrade Timi Frank, your newspaper informed your large readership that our client’s travail “has nothing to do with 2023 but alleged mismanagement of about N90 Billion Naira (sic) released by the Federal Inland Revenue Inland Service (FIRS) to prosecute the last general elections in favour of the APC”.

“It is clear that the entire publication was a vicious, wicked and reckless ploy to impugn the reputation of our client and lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of the public. Without any scintilla of evidence you deliberately gave the dubious impression that our client colluded with the Federal Inland Revenue Service to divert public funds to the tune of N90 billion to prosecute the 2019 general elections in the South west region.

“In view of the foregoing we have our client’s firm instructions to request for the immediate retraction of the offensive and derogatory publication coupled with apology prominently published in your newspaper.

“Take notice that if we do not receive your formal retraction and apology within 24 hours of the receipt of this letter, we shall proceed with our client’s instructions to seek legal remedies including aggravated damages in the appropriate High Court.”

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