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Tax revenue and telcom subscribers

By Matthew Agboma Ozah 
17 August 2022   |   2:41 am
Given the spate at which Nigerians are subjected to harsh policies, our policymakers will soon be nominated for an Oscar award for their political shrewdness to make Nigerians

Given the spate at which Nigerians are subjected to harsh policies, our policymakers will soon be nominated for an Oscar award for their political shrewdness to make Nigerians face more than a handful of unwarranted and humiliating challenges.

Over the years, every economic blueprint seems to further endanger the economy in the troubled water where it floats aimlessly.

For this reason, daily survival for the masses remains a constant calculation of how to make ends meet. In the midst of this extraordinary encounter before the masses, comes the twist, news of killings as a result of insecurity in the country hits the airwaves, again the citizen is forced to think of loved ones or fellow Nigerians living in those troubled regions, praying for their safety and committing the souls of the departed to God, our maker. Of course, all these bring no less worry and frustration to an already troubled mind.

With a mixture of cajole and authority, the government, rather than provide succor, explains why the people must sacrifice more from their lean purse. To achieve this, the telcom subscribers, it was reasoned, burned too many call cards on unnecessary calls, texted meaningless messages and goes to the internet to waste precious time and money watching movies, immoral acts or cause embarrassment to government officials as many these days, claim to be citizen journalists.

Of course, if the government must function with sufficient revenue at its disposal, there should be nothing but telcom tax on the struggling citizens. Therefore, to keep the economy moving and waxing stronger, telcom tax takes its pound of flesh from the masses. Sadly, there is no going back, the legislators vowed.

At this junction, one would not be surprised if many Telcom subscribers in the land are themselves quite irritated by the trend at which the government is pushing revenue generation in this hard time from the hapless masses, many of whom are chronic jobless people. Indeed, the people cannot fail to be mystified by the way in which the telecom tax spreads its fangs on every attempt by the subscribers to use the Global Service Mobile (GSM).

At whatever end, head or tail the subscriber would be caught in the tax web, either by purchasing a calling card, texting or simply loading your data, you are liable to be taxed.

Indeed, to judge by the number of telcom subscribers scrambling for airspace, the Nigerian telecommunication system must rank as one of the most patronised businesses in the country. Beyond that, what most people don’t know is that almost half of its subscribers are mainly students, aged people or unemployed youth.

There is no denying that tax is good, for it provides an avenue for the government to generate revenue. However, the way and manner the government is borrowing money from wherever, tax revenue may not be sufficient enough to cushion the country’s fiscal crisis.

Despite imposing more taxes on the people, government revenues seem to be dwindling even as the cost of servicing debts remains on the rise. No doubt, this has triggered an acute revenue deficit in the economy.

Lately, the most surprising aspect of the Nigerian economy is not the revelation that it is a floating economy. If you are not aware of this fact, it means you were not paying attention to the ruling government’s regular announcement that the economy is surviving by a shock-absorber strategy. It is quite unfortunate that the government have become a gullible borrower in recent time.

However, the real astonishing news about government frivolous spending that continues to put unnecessary pressure on the economy could be seen in the recent statement by the finance minister, who maintained that the ministry cannot account for records to show the subsidy payments. Of course, this came to light when the House of Representatives summoned the minister to the House recently.

At virtually no hassle to the government, revenue from telcom tax would multiply its coffer to about N160 billion. Hence, there never could have been a better alternative for government to weather the economic turbulence than to heap more tax burden on Nigerians.

The strategy being proposed to earn more revenue through telcom tax remains a mystery under the current harsh economic circumstance. I wonder if the government is thinking of adopting a more practical application as we have it on the authority of economic analysts like Ayo Teriba that the government ought to adopt a more pragmatic approach by leveraging its idle or under-utilised public assets to generate liquidity from would-be investors without the burden of repayment and servicing.

It is worrisome looking at the way the nation’s economy is drifting into the ugly pit of economic doldrums. More so, it is baffling to learn that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in the recent past, has been declaring loss just as the officials keep wailing over crude oil theft. Indeed, it is hard to believe that the black gold the nation earnestly depends on and sees as a blessing now seems more of a curse.

Until recently, Nigeria carried itself with splendour and created a false impression of being the ‘Giant of Africa’ because of oil wealth, having neglected every other credible sources of income.

Notwithstanding the drop in oil wealth, the government is keen to maintain its lavish lifestyle. This can only be sustained by milking the people through tax.

Somehow, the government believes that the telcom tax or any tax increase for that matter would rescue the economy from depression. However, a much better strategy, could be employed to increase the government’s revenue, therefore, it is important for the government to make some critical adjustments and see how to utilize non-publicly-owned corporate, real estate and infrastructure assets than imposing all sorts of taxes or by increasing the existing ones on the poor masses.

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