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NCC moves against multiple taxations

Published by Guardian on Tue, 24 Jan 2012


PIQUED by the incessant cases of multiple taxations faced by service providers in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission has set up an Industry Working Group (IWG) that will mediate between the operators and government agencies.The NCC informed that the telecommunications industry has in the last few months witnessed increasing cases of forceful closure of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) sites in various parts of the country by agents of states and local governments albeit for reasons bordering on non-payment of spurious levies and taxes.Constituting the board in Lagos at the weekend, Executive Commissioner, NCC, Mr. Okey Itanyi noted that in most cases, these levies and taxes couldn't find firm basis in the law of the land.Itanyi cited some of these cases to include, an attempt by the Abuja Municipal Council (AMMC) in April, 2011, to shut down MTN Communications Ltd sites within the FCT for refusal to pay yearly charge totaling N257 million, final demand notice from Imo State Environment Transformation Commission (ENTRACO) forAirtel Networks Ltd to pay the sum of N262.4 million for Pest/Vector Control fees and Fumigation Charges for the year 2008 to 2011, demand notices from Ondo State Signage and Advertisement Agency for all network service providers to pay various sums of money for the identification signages' hoisted at their BTS sites in the state.He noted that all matters relating to post, telegraphs and telephones are on the item 46 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and thus outside the legislative competence of any state, local government or area metropolitan council.'However, we are witnesses to many cases where these levels of government have attempted to regulate or impose taxes on the operations of licensed telecoms operators which obviously falls within the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government.'Itanyi said NCC is alarmed that these glaring cases of multiple taxation, when added to the current socio-economic realities in the country, portend grave danger to operators' network plans in addition to the Quality of Service in the country.'This problem, if not quickly addressed, could even erode all the gains of the past 10 years in this industry,' he added.The term of reference before the IWG, which comprises of members from the service industry, industry's associations and the NCC, according to Itanyi will be among others to review recent cases of multiple taxations suffered by operators within the industry; enlist support of all stakeholders, articulate the industry position on the dangers of multiple taxation on the nascent industry and ensure wide publicity of same, liase with FIRS and 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.Others are to develop the strategies for addressing and managing the threat posed by multiple taxation to the growth of the telecoms industry to advise on the strategies for hastening the declaration of telecoms infrastructure as a critical national assets.Earlier in his opening remarks, NCC's Head, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Mr. Ahmed Maska said there was need for more enlightenment campaign in the country to educate the public on the ills of multiple taxation, stressing that the problem persisted because the stakeholders in the industry had not come together before now to address the issue.At a post event interview, Airtel Nigeria's Director of Regulatory Affairs, Osondu Nwokoro said it wouldn't be easy to give a specific amount to what the operators had paid via multiple taxations and unwarranted levies.According to him, 'there are two ways of analysing its impact on telecommunications services. First is the issue of downtime from improper shut down of BTS by government officials. Here, operators are forced to make some inappropriate payments so that subscribers would not be out of service, subscribers would not know that it wasn't our fault entirely for that period of down time.'Secondly, it also compromises our service agreement. This is because, even if we continue to go to court, time and money will be wasted in this course and most times, nothing would come out of it. That is why we thought it well that, the fight can only be successful through the regulator with the support of other stakeholders in the industry, we would be able to mitigate its effect on service.
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