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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.

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Crude Oil

Oil Slips With Energy Prices in Europe Halts Record Rally

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Oil dipped toward $72 a barrel in New York after prices of energy commodities in Europe halted a record-breaking run.

West Texas Intermediate futures fell 0.6%, having reached the highest intraday level since early August on Wednesday. A rally in European gas and power prices to unprecedented levels was set to end as industries were starting to curb consumption. The surge in energy rates could temporarily boost diesel demand by as much as 2 million barrels a day as consumers switch fuels, according to Citigroup Inc.

Still, the bullish signals for oil are continuing to increase. U.S. crude inventories dropped by more than 6 million barrels last week to a two-year low, according to government figures, as coronavirus vaccination programs permit economies to reopen. Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Mike Wirth warned that the world is facing high energy prices for the foreseeable future.

The investor optimism is showing up in key oil time spreads widening. Trading of bullish Brent options also surged to a two-month high on Wednesday.

Prices have been pushed higher in recent days “by supply outages combined with expectations of switching from gas to oil in the power sector,” said Helge Andre Martinsen, a senior oil market analyst at DNB Bank ASA. “We still believe in softer prices toward year-end and early next year as curtailed production returns and OPEC+ continues to increase production.”

Strong prices for gas, liquefied natural gas and oil are expected to last “for a while” as producers resist the urge to drill again, Chevron’s Wirth told Bloomberg News. Norway’s Equinor ASA said Thursday it also expects European gas prices to remain high over winter.

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Energy

Fuel Scarcity: Petrol Sells N220 Per Litre in Nsukka

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Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise called petrol, now sells for between N200 and N220 per liter at the independent marketers’ service stations in Nsukka, Enugu State.

The News Agency of Nigeria is reporting the hike in the price against the official pump price of N162 per liter.

It said it started about a fortnight ago due to the scarcity of the commodity in the town and its environs.

Some residents of the town expressed deep worry over the development in separate interviews with NAN on Wednesday.

A civil servant, Stephen Ozioko, said the situation had further compounded the economic difficulties in the area.

Ozioko said many private car owners had been compelled to park their vehicles at home and move around in public transport.

He said: “Since the scarcity started, I decided to park my car and take public transport to the office and back home. N220 per liter is exorbitant and I cannot afford it considering my salary as a civil servant. I shall continue to use public transport until the situation returns to normal.”

A building material dealer, Timothy Ngwu, said the development had also led to an increase in transport fare in the area.

Ngwu said: “Some people now trek from Nsukka Old Park to Odenigbo Roundabout because of the 100 percent hike in fares from N50 to N100 by tricycle.

“Before now, transport fare from Nsukka to Enugu was N500, but transporters now charge between N800 and N1000.”

Also, a commuter bus driver, Victor Ogbonna, described the scarcity and hike in the price of petrol as “unfortunate and an ugly development”.

Ogbonna added: “Today, only a few filling stations are selling the commodity in Nsukka town, while others are shut.”

He alleged that some filling stations, which claimed to be out-of-stock, were selling to black marketers at night.

He said: “This is why black marketers have sprung up everywhere in the town, selling the commodity for about N300 per liter.”

NAN reports that virtually all the major marketers in the area have stopped the sale of petrol, claiming to be out-of-stock.

The people called on the government to urgently intervene in order to bring the situation under control and also put an end to its harsh economic effects on the messes.

NAN.

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Energy

DPR Targets N3.2T Revenue by Year-End

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Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)-Investors king

Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) will hit the N3.2 trillion revenue target by December 2021, according to its Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sarki Auwalu.

Auwalu made the disclosure when he led a delegation of the DPR management team to the Executive Secretary of Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Mr Bello Gusau, in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said that 70 percent of the revenue projection had already been met. “Last year, we exceed our revenue budget. We were given N1.5 trillion but we were able to generate N2.7trillion.

“This year, our revenue budget was N3.2 trillion. By the end of August 2021, we have generated up to 70 per cent.

“So, we with September, October, November and December, it is only the 30 per cent that we will work over,’’ he said

He noted that the government took advantage of fiscal terms within the old and new legislation, thereby creating a level of increased signature bonuses.

“We reorganise the work programme that is normally being done in the DPR to key into the new operational structure as we see it in the bill, now an act.

“That programme is being handled by the planning and strategic business unit as against what we use to have because the entire work programme is supposed to show not only technical but also commercial and viability of oil fields and to guarantee the return on investment for investors.

“We have also created an economic value and benchmarking unit to key into the new fiscal provisions of the PIA,’’ he said.

Commenting on capacity, Auwalu said the country stands at the advantage of exporting skills to emerging oil and gas countries across Africa with proper implementation of the newly passed Petroleum Industry Act.

This, he said, the DPR was ready to partner with the Fund to continue to build capacity in the oil and gas sector

He noted that the Federal Government was determined to create leeway that would encourage investors and drastically improve the nation’s petroleum industry.

He further noted that no fewer than 300 legal battles in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, which had been stalled for the past 20 years in courts, had been resolved through alternative dispute resolution.

According to Auwalu, the DPR is strategising well to ensure effective implementation of the PIA.

Responding, Gusau commended the DPR for enabling the industry and enhancing business activities in the oil and gas sector.

He said that DPR remained the head of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria adding that the Fund was grateful to benefit from the wealth of ideas from DPR.

“The last time we visited, we had a good discussion and issues raised are being implemented like tracking the inflow of funds in signature bonus accounts.

“We extended the meeting and involved ministry of Finance, Accountant General office and even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“Sitting at field development plans and attending significant meetings, helped us to know where and what the industry is trying to do and it also helps to inform our decisions in training and capacity plans,’’ he said

He urged the DPR to continue on its effort to ensure an efficient and productive petroleum industry in Nigeria

He assured collaboration with all as the head of the implementation committee of the Petroleum Industry Act. (NAN)

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