The successes recorded by the telecommunications industry in the last 10 years have reinforced the internationally acknowledged perception that communication is a powerful, progressive tool of socio-economic development. The continued boost to development (e.g. in terms of job creation, security, social cohesion), the impact upon culture and quality of life and the contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are gains which have been recorded by the industry as a direct result of the advent of mobile telephony in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, while the sector has been a major catalyst for socio-economic development, it has become apparent that majority of our national stakeholders have failed to recognize the pivotal role played by mobile telecommunications to the long term socio-economic development of this nation. These sections of stakeholders instead continue to perceive the successes of the industry as an opportunity to generate short term and other immediate pecuniary benefits. This skewed perception results in undue interference in the operations of communications networks by various strata of society and particularly agencies of government.
ILLEGAL AND INAPPROPRIATE TAXATION AND REGULATION
The Taxes and Levies (Approved Rates for Collection) Act, 1998 provide the taxes and levies collectible by the various tiers of government. The incidence of multiple taxation and regulation evidences the disregard of the provisions of the above Act by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal, State and Local tiers of government. These acts culminate in the imposition of illegal and inappropriate taxes and levies in the following ways:
- Illegal Taxes and Levies
- Excessive quantum of taxes demanded when the tax is legal
- Extra legal mode of collection of such taxes
- Use of consultants for assessment and determination of such taxes and levies
INDUSTRY WORKING GROUP (IWG) on Multiple Taxation
The above scenario led to the inauguration of the Industry Working group on Multiple Taxation (IWG). The group is chaired by Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi, the Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management and was inaugurated on Thursday 19th January, 2012 at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos. It is made up of members from different stakeholders (NCC, Telecom Operators, ALTON, NATCOMS, Media etc), and further expansion of the group to include Tax agencies, etc. The members from the Commission are:
|Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi||EC(Stakeholder Management)|
|Engr. U.A.S Maska||D(CME)|
|Mr. Ephraim Nwokenneya||Head(CM)|
|Mr. Efosa Idehen||Head(Enforcement)|
|Dr. J. O. Atoyebi||Assistant Director|
|Dr. Henry Nkemadu||Assistant Director|
|Dr. Chidi Diugwu||Assistant Director|
|Ms. Helen Obi||Assistant Director|
|Mr. Clem Omife||Senior Manager|
|Engr. Adetunji Bashorun||Senior Manager|
|Ms. Amaka Agwaniru||Manager|
|Mr. Victor Pyarrap||Senior Officer|
The IWG terms of reference include inter alia:
- To catalogue all cases of multiple taxations imposed on operators within the telecom industry and identify potential stakeholders;
- Develop strategies for addressing and managing the threat posed by multiple taxations to the growth of the telecoms industry;
- Articulate the industry position on dangers of multiple taxations on the industry and enlist the support of all stakeholders.
- Enlighten, Educate and publicize the dangers of multiple taxations;
- To liaise with Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) and Joint Tax Board (JTB) to ensure a fair, and equitable tax/levies for operators within the industry and where necessary, a review of the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act of 1998 which appear to have become moribund;
- To advise on measures to achieve the declaration of telecom infrastructure as a critical national asset;
Other strategies to achieve the IWG mandates were:
- Organizing a Media/Press Conference which took place on March 15, 2012 to sensitize Nigerians of the existence of the Industry Working Group (IWG) on Multiple Taxations/Regulations in the Telecoms Industry.
- Launch of a Webpage linked to the NCC website to;
- Create a virtual presence for the IWG in view of its strategic importance to the growth of the industry.
- Create stakeholdersâ€™ awareness of the existence and activities of the IWG in addition to the dangers of Multiple Taxations within the Telecommunications industry in Nigeria.
- Draw the attention of the relevant tiers of government to the implications of multiple taxation, particularly on the quality of telecom services and the growth of the telecommunications industry in general.
- Propagate the activities of the IWG to stakeholders and the general public as well as the press and to;
- Enhance interaction between IWG members, stakeholders in the industry and all Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora.
- The intervention of the Commission in various cases of Multiple Taxations/Regulations by engaging the following agencies as follows;
- Enugu State Ministry of Environment
The Enugu State Ministry Environment requested operators submit list of their BTS sites and coordinates for the purpose of calculating the â€œDevelopment Levyâ€ and Effluent discharge.
At a meeting the Commission maintained its position that it would not support the payment of any tax or levy that is not backed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Ministry was advised to officially channel its request through the Commission.
- Ondo State Signage and Advertising Agency (OSSAA)
The Commission attended a forum organized by the Ondo State Signage and Advertising Agency (OSSAA) where they informed operators/stakeholders of the transfer of responsibilities (processing of applications and approvals of telecom masts sites in the state) of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development to OSSA.
At that forum the Commission advised the agency officially inform the operators of the new development as well as drew their attention that all matters relating to post, telegraph and telephones are on item 46 of the Exclusive Legislative List. Hence no state or local government or their agencies can legislate/regulate on these as well as issues on Taxes and Levies (Approved list for collection) Act of 1998 which defines what each tier of government can collect as taxes and levies and the maximum sum collectible thereof. Consequently, any amount the agency wishes to collect with respect to approvals for BTS sites in the state must be in accordance with the provisions of the law otherwise the Commission is not a party thereof.
- Handling of operatorâ€™s specific cases of Multiple Taxations/Regulations
The Commission is also engaging states government and their agencies on several issues of multiple taxations reported by the operators. The states involves with these taxes are Abia, Imo, Anambra, Cross Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo, Bauchi, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina and FCT and these demand notices are;
- Infrastructural development levies
- Environmental Support Fees and EIA Registration
- Permit/Processing Fees, Pest/Vector Controls fee and Fumigation charges
- Outdoor Advertising for BTS
- Tenement rate, operational/Inspection fees
- Business Premises fee per BTS site
- Effluent Discharge and Turbidity Levy
- Operational permit/sewage
- Signpost/advert fee
- Local Government Support Levy
- Development Levy
- LGA Sanitation and LGS Support Levy
- Ecological Tariff
- The engagement of NESREA management on their recent actions which constitutes infringement on the Commissionâ€™s constitutional rights is being addressed with the evaluation of the scope of NESREAâ€™s powers to clearly define their boundaries.
- Enugu State Ministry of Environment
In other to achieve this, the IWG Executive Committee on April 26th and 27th 2012 paid a courtesy visit to the CEOâ€™s of select operating companies i.e. MTN, Globacom, Airtel, Etisalat, Helios Towers, Visafone, and IHS Ltd to collaborate with them and to seek their support in assisting the group in executing its plans and activities aimed at addressing the current challenges of Multiple Taxations/Regulation in the Telecoms Industry. Other activities are being planned towards the achievement of the IWGâ€™s mandate.
Kindly liaise with any member of the IWG within the Commission for any issues related to Multiple Taxation.