Despite opposition by various stakeholders, including the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, Nigeria’s federal government has declared its readiness to implement the five per cent hike in tariff on data and voice calls.
Owing to this, it has directed telecommunications operators to henceforth effect the new tariff and remit to the government before the 21st of every month.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed who gave the directive on Thursday, also faulted her Communications and Digital Economy counterpart for claiming ignorance of the new tariff hike.
In a statement issued by her Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, the finance minister announced that the government would commence the implementation of the new tax regime on all voice calls, short message services (SMSs) and data services, in addition to the existing 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) paid for goods and services across all sectors of the economy.
The statement said the minister made the disclosure on the five per cent excise duty during a stakeholders’ meeting, organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.
It pointed out that at the meeting, Ahmed, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Tax Policy, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Musa Umar, noted: “The five per cent excise duty has been in the Finance Act 2020, but has never been implemented.
“Henceforth, the five per cent excise duty will be collected by telecom operators and payment made to the federal government on a monthly basis, on or before 21st of every month.”
Reacting to Pantami’s recent position that he was not carried along on the new tariff regime, Ahmed said her counterpart could not claim ignorance of the policy.
She said it was worth noting that there was a circular indicating the planned hike, which was addressed to the communication minister and other relevant ministries and agencies of government via a circular referenced No. F. 17417/VI/286 dated March 1, 2022, and titled “Approval for Implementation of the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures and Tariff Amendments.”
The statement added: “Against the comments by Prof. Isa Ali Pantami, Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, concerning the five per cent excise duty hike on telecoms services, it is worth noting that there was a circular stating the planned hike which was addressed to the communication minister and other relevant ministries and agencies of government.
“The circular referenced No. F. 17417/VI/286 dated 1st March 2022, and titled “Approval for Implementation of the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures and Tariff Amendments” was addressed to different Ministers, including Honourable Minister, Communications and Digital Economy and other heads of government agencies.
“The circular was addressed to The Secretary to The Government of The Federation, Attorney-General of The Federation, Ministers of Industry, Trade an Investment, Agriculture and Rural development, Mines and Steel and Development.
“Others are Ministers of Health, Aviation, Information And Culture, Budget And National Planning. Other heads of agencies copied in the circular are Accountant-General of the Federation, Comptroller-General of Customs, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Director-General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council.
“Others are the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission.”
Reinforcing her position, Ahmed said with the aforementioned reference, it therefore, meant that all stakeholders had by that singular provision been aware of the Act.
According to her, the excise duty on telecommunication services provided in Nigeria introduced through the Finance Act, 2020 with statutory enactment on January 1, 2021 is yet to be implemented till date.
She added that this was considering the need to ensure reasonable transition period before the implementation of the new tax, as well as providing clarity to all stakeholders on implementation modalities.
Pantami had recently expressed dissatisfaction with efforts by the federal government to introduce the five per cent excise duty on telecommunication services.
Speaking at the maiden edition of the Nigerian Telecommunications Indigenous Content EXPO (NTICE) themed ‘Stimulating the development of Indigenous Content through innovation and commercialisation’ in Lagos, he had stressed the need for the government and stakeholders to continue to support the sector, and not unnecessarily burden.
Pantami had said he would explore every legitimate means to stop the planned five per cent excise duty on telecoms consumers, faulting the timing and process of imposing the tax on the industry.
According to him, part of the responsibility of a responsive government was not to increase the challenges that citizens were facing.
“The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy is not satisfied with any effort to introduce excise duty on Telecommunications. When VAT was increased to 7.5 per cent, I was not consulted.
” I only heard the announcement and I think there is something questionable and I am glad that we are on the same page with our National Assembly members.
“They too have not been consulted despite the fact that they are part of the committee,” the minister reportedly said.