FIRS tenders apology over ‘offensive’ Easter message

Onwubuke Melvin
Onwubuke Melvin

The Federal Inland Revenue Service has apologised to the Christian Association of Nigeria over an Easter post the association described as being provocative.

Recall that the Christian body had demanded a public apology from the FIRS after the Revenue agency shared a picture on its X handle,  with the caption “Jesus paid your debts, not your taxes.”

Nigerians, in particular Christians, reacted to the post.

The National Director of National Issues and Social Welfare of CAN, Abimbola Ayuba, in a statement on Tuesday, demanded the FIRS to “offer a public apology for the distress caused”, while also urging private and public institutions to be cognizant of the religious diversities in the country.

According to the statement, he said “This year, a public institution, which should be the bastion of exemplary conduct, has been implicated in disseminating content that is widely regarded as offensive and derogatory to the Christian faith.

“Such messages not only threaten the delicate fabric of our national unity but also undermine the efforts of countless Nigerians working towards fostering mutual respect among diverse religious groups.”

However, in its response on Tuesday night, the service said its intention was not to disparage the message of Easter but to engage taxpayers and reminding them of their civic duty, according to The Punch.

In a statement signed by Dare Adekambi, Special Adviser on Media to the FIRS Chairman, the FIRS offered its “unreserved apologies” to CAN, adding that the agency had no religion and had no intention to offend adherents of the Christian faith.

The statement read, “Our attention has been drawn to a statement by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) about a flier posted on our social media platforms with the headline ‘Jesus paid your debts, not your taxes.’ As a responsible agency of government, we would like to say we did not put out the flier purposely to denigrate Jesus Christ or detract from the huge sacrifice He made for humanity. We are acutely aware that the essence of the Easter period is to celebrate this huge sacrifice.

“The message was our way of uniquely engaging taxpayers and to remind them of the need to prioritise payment of their taxes as a civic obligation.

“Yes, we would say the message ruffled feathers in some circles. The unintended meaning/insinuation being read into the post was not what we were out to communicate as an agency. Good a thing, this much is acknowledged by CAN in its statement wherein it said ‘We recognise that the intended message may have been to creatively engage taxpayers…’ We wish to offer our unreserved apologies for this misinterpretation.

“FIRS, as a responsible agency, has no religion and will not bring down any religion or offend the sensibilities of adherents of various faiths in the country.

“Our goal is to assess, collect, and account for revenue for the wellbeing of the Federation. We believe it is an investment in the progress of the country when citizens pay their taxes. Once again, we wish to apologise to CAN and Christians, who felt offended at the unintended consequence of our message on Easter Sunday.”

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