In Nigeria, a 54 year old could pass for a young man; the political milieu is awash with oldies in their 60s still hustling and bustling. Those in their 40s are in fact on the waiting list—they are still quite young. For one born in the year 1968, in a town whose name he bears as a last name, Muhammad Nami may, in his jocular fashion, argue that he is still in the realm of his youth. Save a few strands of grey beards shooting off his chin, his agility, efficiency, and grit give off a fairly young man in his mid 30s.
He maintains this youthfulness and fitness by taking long walks in the evenings. The tonic that ensures his body is game for the job of leading the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
Nami is devout, taking his belief in the Almighty God, His divine assignments and the teachings of the Glorious Quran seriously—and it reflects in his humility, his decency, his unadulterated honesty, his integrity, his hardwork and his passion for country.
On the 2nd of February (02) 2022, he turned 54. In the last thirty years of his lifetime so far, Muhammad Nami has dedicated his life to hard work and service to the nation in various capacities.
He built himself into a force in the tax community by sheer diligence and self development. From 1993 to 2018 he worked with the PKF Professional Services where he rose through the ranks to become a Senior Manager at the firm, Heading Tax Consultancy Services; overseeing business development and tax advisory, supervising teams handling audits, developing Accounting and Internal Control Manuals for clients and conducting valuation and feasibility studies.
As a member of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recoveries Made By Federal Government Agencies, he played a critical role in the country’s anti-corruption war, reconciling figures and positions of recoveries by MDAs, and establishing a structure for accountability of future recoveries by MDAs.
It surprised few who knew his grit when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him to lead the Federal Inland Revenue Service in 2019. He is fit, skilled and competent for the job—and that has shown in the way in which he has managed the FIRS, and is turning around its successes for the better.
When he was nominated for this job he was already renowned for enmeshing himself in any task that he was given. As a member of the Presidential Panel, he was up and doing, serving and pouring himself into the task of the Panel, leaving no stone unturned and dedicating himself to the betterment of the nation.
That character has not changed. Muhammad Nami daily still gives his best to the FIRS, seeing it as a call to duty and service for the nation. It is no surprise that he is working most of the day into the late hours of the night.
He carefully curated his management team from across the spread of the six geopolitical groups of the country, reflecting his values of zero bias for ethnicity, religion and tribe when it comes to work and nation building. These women and men have been a backbone for his reforms, and the results we see—working tirelessly to birth big ideas, fixing knotty issues, and revolutionising tax administration as we know it.
Muhammad Nami has a preternatural flair for figures. I easily declare that this is his gift. When numbers are placed before him, he knows quickly where the odd ones are, where the irregularities are, and makes his call: “there’s something wrong there, check it again,” or “that figure in the 3rd paragraph is wrong, cross-check it here,” or “add this, this, this, multiply this, this and that, it does not give you this.” His gift was his selling point at the Presidential Panel, too. He saw, like the forensic auditor that he is, where the numbers did not add up. Where public funds had been illegally moved from government coffers to private accounts in sleek fashion, he saw them too. And that earned him accolades on the Panel.
“We are doing this for Nigeria,” Oga usually says this when there is fatigue and the sacrifice of labour seems a burden too much to give. His sense of patriotism is deep-seated and non-negotiable, so is his love and passion for the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
In 2021, the Service achieved a collection of N6.405 trillion, the highest ever in its history, the Chairman was visibly delighted and revered in the victory. But as much as he has been excited over this, he has said that this means more work—for him, the least the Service should look forward to in 2022 is to add a trillion to the collection sum for 2021. He has set the ball rolling for this next battle, and the next victory, too.
His work tool for this next level is technology. Perhaps this would be his greatest legacy in tax administration: how he made technology the transforming tool for mobilising unprecedented revenue for government. The “TaxPro Max” digital solution, FIRS’ tax administration software, birthed under his watch has been Nigeria’s revenue game-changer. And he isn’t even stopping at this.
At a seminar organised by the Pedabo Consulting two weeks ago he stated unequivocally: “The Service intends to continue on this trajectory in 2022, by expanding the scope and capacity of the TaxPro Max and other ICT infrastructures. We will seek to achieve 100% automation of ALL our tax administration processes, which will block revenue leakages and revolutionise revenue generation in this country.” The fulfilment of this goal would make the FIRS Nigeria’s most technologically driven Agency/ Parastatal. And Nami means business on this.
When the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators unanimously elected Muhammad Nami as their President, they wanted what they saw he was doing—revolutionising tax administration with technology, achieving feats in revenue collection even during a pandemic, and leading a world-class Inland Revenue Service that was setting the pace for tax administration.
54 looks good on Muhammad Nami—a sleek gentleman with a fierce Resume, author of bold innovations and milestone achievements as FIRS’ Chief Executive, and agility that says with readiness: “What’s next?”
Johannes Oluwatobi Wojuola is the Special Assistant to Muhammad Nami, Executive Chairman of the FIRS, on Media and Communication.