The country’s telecommunications operators have criticized the Federal Government’s latest proposed tariff on phone calls.
The telcos, represented by the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), said the decision contradicted the government’s previous announcement that they (the operators) planned to raise fees due to the high cost of diesel powering their base stations.
Telecom users, according to ALTON Chairman Engr. Gbenga Adebayo would face the brunt of the new levy because they will now receive less value for what they pay for. He goes on to say that if mandated by the government, operators will have no choice but to begin deducting the tax from users’ recharges.
The government levied a telecom tax of at least one kobo per second for phone calls through the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021, which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
According to the new law, this would be one of the sources of revenue needed to support free healthcare for Nigeria’s Vulnerable Group.
The statute includes a provision in Section 26 subsection 1c of the act stating that the source of funds for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes “telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls”.
The law defines the vulnerable group in society as children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly, physically and intellectually challenged people, and impoverished people as defined from time to time in the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021.
In response to the proposed tax, ALTON Chairman said: “For us as at ALTON, it is bad fate on the part of government and I think it is badly intended. This is because when we came out that the government should look at our cost of operations and give us room to review tariffs, everybody treated us like outcasts.
The same government is now coming in a matter of days to say they are introducing new taxes. So, if we cannot review based on the impact it will have on subscribers, why are they bringing in another tax, still on subscribers. Government cannot act in one way and say another thing”.
Adebayo added that tax could be introduced to another service, not a service that is so live-impacting like telecommunications.
“The reason for it is understandable, but we think it can be sourced from other sources, not telecoms subscribers, whom the government itself has said are suffering because of the high cost of living lately. We will not complain as operators because we will definitely remit, it is the subscribers that will bear the brunt. I say again that for us to have a sustainable industry, we must price right. Government cannot escape from this responsibility for a long time,” he said.