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Telcos lament 38 different government taxes, levies

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Telecoms operators are seeking a downward review or scrapping of some government taxes and levies slammed on their operations.

Currently, the operators, under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), said they pay 38 different taxes and levies of government and its agencies.

ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, said the challenges of absurd taxes on members are majorly from regions including South South; South East and North East.

Adebayo gave an example of Taraba State, which locked up cell site during last Christmas period over frivolous taxes.

Some of the imposed taxes, according to him include aviation clearance, site Inspection Fee, hawking permit, building permit, building fitness, sewage fees, fumigation, sewage fees, refuse collection and disposal, capitation fee, shop rate, among others.

According to him, all these imposed taxes would prevent further investments and limit operators’ expansion drive.

ALTON, which is also worried about what it described as incessant National Assembly (NASS) ad-Hoc Committees summoning of members, especially the Chief Executive Officers to Abuja for one hearing or the other, said it has instituted a legal case at the Federal High Court, Abuja for interpretation of their roles.

He described the several summoning, which could have been hamonised, as disturbing.

Reacting to the matter, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, the situation is rather unfortunate.

Teniola, in a telephone interview with The Guardian, said it was unfortunate because there wasn’t any extensive dialogue among the NASS, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), ALTON and ATCON on the matter.

According to him, there should have been a dialogue on some of the oversight functions of NASS, especially as regards taxes and regulations. He said there was need to know in specific what NASS tends to achieve with various ad-hoc committee calling on operators every now and then, “most of those functions trully over lap on the roles of the regulator, the NCC.”

Teniola, who said ALTON acted unilaterally by going to court, however, said the several summoning by various NASS ad-Hoc committees was against Federal Government’s ease of doing business strategies, “because investors are worried.”

The ATCON President urged the Federal Government to streamline the responsibilities of the NASS so that investors are not chased out of the country.

Teniola advised government to protect the sector, saying the ICT\Telecom sector provides backbone for virtually all other sectors of the economy.

“The industry would want to work with the government, NASS and others to ensure a conducive environment for the Nigerian economy to thrive,” he stressed.

He said that the economy cannot progress where the executive and legislative arms are not working in harmony, saying “it doesn’t bold well to have the Judiciary come into the matter and act as both judge and jury.”

But Reacting to the development, House Committee Chairman on ICT, Shehu Gusau, told The Guardian via the telephone that the NASS has the right to summon on anybody, even the business operators to Abuja for clarifications.

Gusau said the NASS would only act if there have been complaints, “we are very procedural at the NASS. We don’t just summon people anyhow. What happens most times is that if there are complaints raised on the floor of NASS, we call for questioning, after which it is debated.

Then it becomes a motion, and the clerk of the House is now mandated to summon, whosoever has been mentioned, even from the business community. That is what has happened in this case.”

While agreeing that the NASS Committees must hamonise the frequency of summoning people to Abuja for clarification, he however, said the court cannot give a perpetual order that an invitee summoned to the NASS should not honour the invitation.


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