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Communication Tax: Subscribers, Business Leaders Ready for Showdown

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The proposed communication tax is one tax too many, and may trigger widespread reactions if the bill is eventually passed into law.

Although the ‘controversial’ Communication Service Tax bill has passed the first reading at the House of Representatives. The major telecommunications companies in the country are all against it, and have vowed to do all they could to resist it.

For the telecoms firms and subscribers, it is seen as a wrong approach to generating revenue amid a sinking economy and an impoverished people.

“We are going to mobilise the Nigeria Labour Congress, the civil society organisations and the entire nation against it.

“We shall bring the government of Nigeria to a standstill should the lawmakers at the National Assembly continue with the process of passing that bill into law.

“In fact, we must not even allow a second reading of the bill, or allow them to hold a public hearing, because most times when you allow them to hold a public hearing, they do so in secrecy just to ensure that people do not oppose their (lawmakers’) decision,” the President, National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers, Mr. Adeolu Ogunbanjo, told our correspondent.

Upon passage and assent, the CST bill, which is currently in the Senate, will compel telecommunications service subscribers, including satellite television providers like DSTV, to pay additional tax on services rendered by their providers.

The others include GoTV, Startimes, CONSAT and other telecoms operators. Services such as voice calls, SMS, MMS, data and pay TV will all have an additional nine per cent tax imposed on the services; meaning that the subscribers will pay the usual cost of service, plus nine per cent of that cost.

“It is one tax too many. Already, there are 26 different taxes being paid by Nigerians. Again, all the various components of telecoms are being taxed; for instance, the Subscriber Identification Module card, handsets, among others, take about five per cent tax already,” Ogunbanjo said.

He said, “Again, the cybercrime tax that was signed into law last year takes 0.5 per cent of tax.

“Also, when the operators want to lay their fibre optic cables in Lagos, they pay a minimum of N500 per metre tax. And by the time they have laid the cables in several metres, that would have amounted to millions of naira in tax.

“It is even worse outside Lagos, where operators are charged many times over what they pay in Lagos.”

Business leaders, notably the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, say the Federal Government needs to balance its drive for taxation against the demand of the private sector to have a friendly business environment.

“We know that the government is seeking to diversify its revenue base. But it is also true that the private sector players would like to see an investment-friendly environment, especially in the light of the prevailing high cost of doing business in the country,” the LCCI President, Nike Akande, said.

According to her, the chamber believes that it is in the best interest of Nigerians to have a virile, robust and growing economy. “Creation of a good business environment is imperative to making this proposal happen,” Akande said.

The Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said the proposed communication tax as it affects the firm would be over N20m per month.

“But then they have constructed the bill on wrong assumptions and have overestimated, because if the tax on communication and Internet services will be increased, then definitely the users of these services will drastically decrease, resulting in them making way less than they anticipated and estimated,” Oyedele said.

He said research had proved that Nigeria was one of the lowest tax-compliant countries, despite having a population of about 180 million people.

“There are only 10 million taxpayers from the 36 states. Therefore, we expect that policies made should leverage the telecommunications sector to help expand tax rate, not imposing tax on telecommunication services, thereby discouraging the sector instead of encouraging it,” he said.

He stated that the government should focus more attention on tax evaders and increase the number of taxpayers, rather than imposing taxes on telecommunications, which might end up retarding the wheel of progress in the economy and country as a whole.

The President, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, said the proposed law would lead to a decrease in the flow of revenue, as investors would take their investments to other countries with lower tax rates.

“Nigeria needs investment so as to provide employment, especially to our growing youth. Owing to that increase in call rate, there will be drastic reduction in the composition of data usage, as well as voice call, SMS, MMS, pay tax and the like, which will reduce usage and the country’s GDP,” Adebayo said.

“ALTON’s position as regards the nine per cent tax is that when the legislature is drafting policies, the policies should be investment-friendly, which will in turn be beneficial to the whole country and economy at large,” he added.

Meanwhile, findings from investigations conducted by our correspondent show that while Nigeria’s tax rates are not the highest comparatively, the country is doing very poorly in terms of the time taken to comply and the number of payments (which together impact negatively on the ease of doing business and investor confidence).

However, the Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, said there were many areas in Nigeria where there were no access to Internet, to telephone and the like.

“By 2018, we hope to have accomplished 30 per cent of widespread use of telecommunications in all the areas of Nigeria, but presently, we have accomplished only 10 per cent. But then there is a probability that with the nine per cent tax rate charge, accomplishing this will be almost impossible,” Shittu said.

A top executive in one of the four major telcos in the country described the communication tax as a “Greek gift.”

Pleading not to be mentioned, he said, “In fact, that is a Greek way of internally generating revenue, because you cannot claim to be alleviating the sufferings of the people, yet you turn back to take whatever you must have given to them.”

The idea to go ahead with the passage of the bill, despite earlier resistance, may have pitted the telecoms firms against Shittu.

According to the telcos, the feeling is that Shittu has done little or nothing to stop the lawmakers from moving to pass the bill.

Another telecoms employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “If the minister, despite our pleas for understanding, could still remain calm, even in the midst of the hardship being experienced by Nigerians (subscribers), then it is obvious that he (the minister) has got nothing to offer the country.”

He added, “The minister had better take a bow now, than remain in office and preside over the collapse of the 2018 project that is aimed at deepening broadband penetration in the country.

“Can you deepen broadband penetration by denying Nigerians access to the Internet and making it difficult for them to make calls?”

At a time when the drive should be intensified to attract investors – local and foreign – to commit their resources to rescuing the troubled economy, concerned Nigerians are worried that the lawmakers are seeking to enact laws that will introduce disincentives.

The proposed CST will not only deter new investors from coming into Nigeria, but it will also force the current foreign investors to stagnate further investments.

According to a telecoms analyst, Constance Azuru, the CST is not a wise move from an investor’s perspective.

“The CST bill is retrogressive for an economy that requires help from all fronts to alleviate the sufferings of its people, the same people who will now be further taxed,” Azuru said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Crude Oil Pulled Back Despite Joe Biden Stimulus

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Crude Oil Pulled Back Despite Joe Biden Stimulus

Crude oil pulled back on Friday despite the $1.9 trillion stimulus package announced by U.S President-elect, Joe Biden.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, pulled back from $57.38 per barrel on Wednesday to $55.52 per barrel on Friday in spite of the huge stimulus package announced on Thursday.

On Thursday, OPEC, in its latest outlook for the year, said uncertainties remain high in 2021 with the number of COVID-19 new cases on the rise.

OPEC said, “Uncertainties remain high going forward with the main downside risks being issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior.”

“These will also include how many countries are adapting lockdown measures, and for how long. At the same time, quicker vaccination plans and a recovery in consumer confidence provide some upside optimism.”

Governments across Europe have announced tighter and longer coronavirus lockdowns, with vaccinations not expected to have a significant impact for the next few months.

The complex remains in pause mode, a development that should not be surprising given the magnitude of the oil price gains that have been developing for some 2-1/2 months,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said.

Still, OPEC left its crude oil projections unchanged for the year. The oil cartel expected global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to an average of 95.9 million per day in 2020.

But also OPEC expects a recent rally and stimulus to boost U.S. Shale crude oil production in the year, a projection Investors King experts expect to hurt OPEC strategy in 2021.

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Crude Oil

OPEC Says Uncertainties Remain High in 2021

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OPEC Says Uncertainties Remain High in 2021

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Thursday said global uncertainties remained high going forward in 2021 but kept its oil demand forecast unchanged.

In the cartel’s latest oil outlook for 2021, oil demand is expected to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to 95.9 million barrels per day. The prediction was unchanged from December’s assessment.

However, OPEC and allies, said: “Uncertainties remain high going forward with the main downside risks being issues related to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior.”

“These will also include how many countries are adapting lockdown measures, and for how long. At the same time, quicker vaccination plans and a recovery in consumer confidence provide some upside optimism.

Crude oil rose to $57 per barrel this week after incoming US President Joe Biden announced it would inject $1.9 trillion stimulus into the world’s largest economy.

But the recent rally in the commodity and stimulus announcement is expected to boost US crude oil output and disrupt OPEC+ production cuts strategy for the year.

The 2021 supply outlook is now slightly more optimistic for U.S. shale with oil prices increasing, and output is expected to recover more in the second half of 2021,” OPEC said.

Still, OPEC, in its forecast “assumes a healthy recovery in economic activities including industrial production, an improving labour market and higher vehicle sales than in 2020.”

“Accordingly, oil demand is anticipated to rise steadily this year supported primarily by transportation and industrial fuels,” the group said.

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Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Rose to $56.25 Per Barrel

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Brent Crude Oil Rose to $56.25 Per Barrel

Oil price surged following the declaration of Joe Biden as the President-elect of the United States of America last week after Trump’s mob invaded Capitol to disrupt a joint Senate session.

Also, the large drop in US crude inventories helped support crude oil price to over 11 months despite the second wave of COVID-19 crushing the world from Asia to Europe to America.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian Crude oil is priced, rose to $56.25 per barrel on Friday before pulling back to $55.422 per barrel on Monday during the London trading session.

Experts attributed the pullback to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Asia with about 11 million people already locked down in Hebei province in China.

Covid hot spots flaring again in Asia, with 11 million people (in) lockdowns in China Hebei province… along with a touch of FED policy uncertainty has triggered some profit taking out of the gates this morning,” Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, said in a note on Monday.

China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, has joined the United Kingdom and others declaring full or partial lockdown to curb the second wave of COVID-19.

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