How heavy taxes, harassments hobble telcos
Nigeria has championed the telecom industry to business and political audiences around the world as the next big thing paved with ease of doing business and other government cushions.
An in-depth look however, paints a different picture: the industry is beset by myriad of challenges most of them occasioned by the same government which is touting an investment haven.
No doubt, telecom has become one of the most vibrant industries in Nigeria. According to Statista, a global statistics company, there are approximately 76.2 million Nigerian internet users as of 2017; an increase of nearly 50 percent from the 2013 figure of 51.8 million.
But, the multiplicity of taxes across different tiers of government, is today hampering the growth and development of the sector.
Some of the taxes and levies include: Aviation Clearance fee, Building Permit fee, Employee Development Levy, Site levy, Operational Permit levy, Business Premises levy, Building Fitness levy, Sanitation fee, Infrastructure Maintenance fee, Tenement Rate, Signage and Advert levy, Fire Service fee, Effluent Discharge fee, Environmental/Ecological fee, Gaseous emission fee, among others.
These taxes are for the same industry that provides direct and indirect employment to thousands of Nigerians.
The industry also contributes N450 billion in form of taxes to Nigeria’s economy and accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Yet, the telecom firms are targets of incessant harassment and fines from many quarters in the country.
Tobechukwu Okigbo, Corporate Relations Executive, MTN Nigeria, reacting to the recent disruption of his company’s operations by Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), said the “the violence and the needless destruction of property is deeply saddening. As always our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, some of whom were attacked by supposed NLC operatives and have sustained injuries”
Elsewhere, Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has expressed concerns over the disruption of operations of MTN Nigeria, saying that “Damage to any Telecom Facilities will lead to the disruption of critical national security and economic services which will expose innocent citizens to great danger.
“Attempts have been made to disrupt the network operations of some of our members through the shut down and vandalisation of critical network facilities”
On taxation, Olusola Teniola, president, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), urged the ministry of finance to work towards harmonisation of the various taxes to stop overtaxing in the telecom industry and appealed to the governments to use the taxes to improve the lives of the citizens.