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Nigerians Reject Proposed Increase In Data Tariff

ncc, ICT SECTOR
Posted: Nov 30, 2016 at 3:08 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Emmanuel Okwuke

Lagos – Nigerians from all walks of life have rejected the proposed tariff increase on data usage in the country.

The National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) under the leadership of Deolu Ogunbanjo is already spoiling for war as they have threatened a nationwide protest if the NCC does not rescind its decision to increase data tariff across all networks.

“We are resisting it; we are rejecting it as it will hinder the achievement of the 30 percent broadband penetration by 2018. NCC did not communicate its decision with stakeholders at any of its fora. It is just introducing it to raise money for government. We are going to protest nationwide until the decision is rescinded,” Ogunbanjo threatened.

Ogunbanjo noted that further taxation on electronic communication services will hit lower income consumers the most.

“These people are already struggling due to the adverse economic situation and increased price pressure and for whom affordable access to information and communication technology is critical to their social and economic inclusion.

“Moreover, this will result in double taxation for consumers who already pay Value Added Taxes on telecommunications services”, he lamented.

Also, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), on Tuesday said that the proposed increase in data rate by telecoms operators in the country was a conspiracy against the collective interest of the common man in the country.

In a statement signed by the President, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and Acting Secretary General, Comrade Simeso Amachree, the Congress said the proposed increase was unacceptable as it is aimed at frustrating the Nigerian people.

The TUC noted that rather than increase awareness for greater citizens’ participation especially in ICT, they are doing the opposite, pointing out that while the government is banking on ICT for youth empowerment, the NCC is trying to cut youth participation.

The statement reads: “The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria warns against the on-going conspiracy between the Federal Government through the NCC and some major telecom companies, especially MTN to further increase their data rates from December 1, 2016. It is really startling the extent government and its capitalist’s cronies would go to frustrate the lives of Nigerians.

“We feel particularly awful about the move because data is one of the cheapest ways to empower the teaming youth. This move if allowed would make it unaffordable. In our view, this is insensitive and criminal on the part of the parties involved.

“Naturally, we had expected that government would increase awareness for greater citizens’ participation especially in ICT, but unfortunately they are doing the opposite. One cannot really situate federal government policy direction these days.

“This is not the best way to make money. This move is spineless and should be done away with. What then would be the benefit of the policy to the self-employed who depend on data for their businesses? The truth is, cheap Internet data is a vehicle of some sort to economic development.

It would be recalled that stakeholders in the telecommunications industry under the aegis of three pressure groups: the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecommunications Companies Of Nigeria (ATCON) and National Association Of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) had  earlier kicked against the proposed communications tax to be imposed on telecoms and other associated services in Nigeria.

In a petition jointly signed by the leaders of three associations: namely Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, ALTON, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, former President of ATCON and Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, President of NATCOMS and copied to Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communications, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Senator Olubukola Abubakar Saraki, Senate President and Dogara Yakubu, Speaker of the House of Representatives among others.

In the petition, the three pressure groups expressed their concerns regarding the proposal, under consideration by the National Assembly, to establish a nine per cent Communication Service Tax to be on charges payable by a user of an electronic communication services. (That is: SMS, voice calls, MMS, data usage) supplied by service providers.

They fear that if introduced, such tax will result in an increase in prices payable by consumers, have adverse impacts on the adoption of mobile services and industry investment, and be counterproductive to the longer term national digital strategy objectives set by the government.

They maintained that the tax would increase affordability barriers to the uptake of mobile services as the socio-economic impact of mobile penetration is now widely recognised.

Speaking on the proposed bill, Gbenga Adebayo, chairman ALTON said the applicability of the tax seems to be focused mainly on telecommunications, for services that are already being taxed. The tax is to be levied on charges payable by users of Electronic Communication Service (any communication through use of wire, radio, optical or electromagnetic transmission emissions or receiving system or part of these and include interconnection), at nine per cent of the charge for the service. The specific services highlighted are voice calls, SMS, MMS, Data, TV viewing, even though these don’t seem exclusive.

Mr. Lanre Ajayi, Former President of ATCON in his reaction said by impacting usage of communications services and in turn industry revenues, this proposed tax would have adverse effect on the industry investment needed to improve and expand mobile connectivity across the country.

“Mobile industry investment in Nigeria is already constrained by multiple levels of taxes and fees set by local and regional authorities and high costs of right of ways”.

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