Telephone calls tax: NATCOMS, others may take FG to court

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By Chinenye Anuforo

The President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, has warned the Federal Government (FG) that if it did not rescind the planned two percent tax on all telephone calls, his group with other civil society group would take the FG to court.

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Ogunbanjo who gave the warning during a telephone interview with Daily Sun said the FG is very insensitive to come up with such proposal at a time like this adding that telecoms subscribers would resist the new tax regime, because of its grievous implications on subscribers and the telecom sector.

Recall that, the two per cent tax, which is the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls, is part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the vulnerable group in Nigeria, according to the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari penultimate week.

According to him, the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 was supposed to pass through the first and second reading on the floor of the National Assembly, before it could be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for signing, “but we were surprised to know that President Buhari signed the bill without a public hearing and public input.

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It is absurd to know that a bill, which is dependent on telecommunication levies and taxes, was passed without the input and consent of telecom subscribers, who will be taxed to raise money for the purpose for which the bill was passed and signed into law. We were told that the money that would be realised would be used to fund the national health insurance scheme for vulnerable people.

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“One thing that the government has failed to understand is that over 80 per cent of Nigerians are vulnerable, except the politicians and their aids that made up the remaining 10 per cent. So, if 90 per cent is vulnerable, why will government task the same people to raise money to take care of them? What informed the government’s decision to depend on taxes from telecom to fund the insurance scheme for the vulnerable?” Ogunbanjo asked.

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He said already, telecom operators were struggling with over 30 different taxes and levies from the federal, state, and local governments, and he questioned the rationale behind the federal government’s motive to impose an additional tax on the telecom sector and still want the sector to survive.

Ogunbanjo further said: “Telecoms services are the only services that the masses are enjoying at the moment and the government wants to use taxes and levies to stifle it. Subscribers are struggling to buy fuel to power their generators that will serve their business and they also buy fuel for their cars, and the cost of fuel has skyrocketed, yet the government wants to increase the burden by an additional two per cent tax on all telephone calls. That will be killing subscribers if you ask me and we are going to resist it at all costs.

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