The 2023 presidential ambition of the former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, might be dented with some of the unfolding developments surrounding his business concerns.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is already drilling the former Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, over the N100 billion tax evasion allegations against a tax firm, Alpha Beta Consulting.
Before the latest development, Alpha Beta, a consultancy owned by Tinubu, who carries himself as National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been at the centre of a N100 billion fraud, tax evasion and money laundering petition written by its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dapo Apara.
In the petition sent by his solicitors, Adetunji Adegboyega Esq, Apara said: “Over the years the company is being protected and shielded by some powerful politicians and people in the society which made them to always boast of being untouchable, but our client, feeling the need not to keep quiet again and strengthened by his belief in the fact that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is keen on fighting corruption, which has been the bane of our country, is of the firm belief that it’s time to expose and open the can of worms called Alpha Beta Consulting.
“Our client is of the firm belief that it is time for the commission to step in and con duct a holistic investigation into the activities of Alpha Beta Consulting Limited and Alpha Beta LLP, with a view to uncovering the massive corruption, money laundering, tax evasion etc going on in the company. Kindly note that one of the companies being used to perpetrate money laundering by the company is still another company named Ocean Trust Limited.
“The only hope of our client and indeed the teeming Nigerians who are victims of the crimes being perpetrated by these companies, in seeking justice is the commission, which we strongly believe in and therefore call on the commission to cause a holistic investigation into this case and all involved with the aim of bringing these criminals to justice, and not allow their claims of being untouchable to be validated.
“Kindly note sir that as our client is willing and able to provide information to substantiate the claims, though, we will plead for these to be done through us as he is presently fearing for his life having been receiving death threats from a lot of quarters because of this case.”
Alpha Beta first became known when it was appointed as a consultant to the Lagos State Government, arguably its first client, under the tenure of Babatunde Fowler as the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue from 2005 to 2014.
The company got the appointment when Tinubu was governor. The speculation, which has yet to be dissipated since then, is that Tinubu completely owns or is a major shareholder in the company.
In the same vein, the state has also never denied claims that the company takes about 10 per cent of internally generated revenue of Lagos, estimated in 2016 to be N40 billion every month.
However, Fowler, who was also a former chief executive officer, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), responded to an invitation from the EFCC on Monday.
In a petition to the EFCC in 2018, Apara stated that Alpha Beta, the firm given exclusive rights to monitor and collect IGR on behalf of the Lagos, “has become an avenue for official corruption of government officials, a conduit pipe for massive money-laundering scheme, tax evasion, among other vices.”
The petition read in part, “over the years the company has been protected and shielded by some powerful politicians and people in the society which made them to always boast of being untouchable, but our client, feeling the need not to keep quiet again and strengthened by his belief in the fact that the government of President Buhari is keen on fighting corruption, which has been the bane of our country, is of the firm belief that it’s time to expose and open the can of worms called Alpha Beta Consulting.”
EFCC Spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed that Fowler was with the commission. “Yes, Fowler responded to an invitation this morning (Monday)’’, Uwujaren said though he declined to comment on the investigation.
Alpha-Beta Consulting is however, diverse in its service offerings, ranging from project, scope and fixed assets management to software development and database maintenance. The firm also delves in audits and reviews, in addition to its suite of training and support services in the technology domain.
The firm recently conducted an independent evaluation of its economic performance, which revealed the fiscal room and feasibility of expanding its operations beyond Africa’s largest economy.
Among its expansive pool of clients in Nigeria are, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Sokoto, Kano, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
In a statement the firm boasted, ‘’our efforts elevated Lagos Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) 55 folds from N600 million monthly average to N33billion monthly since 2001.’’
Meanwhile, Fowler returned to EFCC for a second round of interrogation. He was on Monday quizzed by the EFCC in Lagos for over seven hours and was allowed to go home late at night.
Uwujaren, EFCC’s spokesman says Fowler went back to the anti-graft agency because he still had questions to answer. His words, “he was allowed to go home last night, and he has returned this morning.”
Fowler is answering questions over a revenue shortfall at the FIRS as well as his alleged links to a company, which helps the Lagos State Government to collect taxes for a commission of 10 per cent.