ALTON seeks clear regulatory profile for telecoms sector
While the sector can boast of over $32 billion investments, operators seem to have been subjected to varying and increasing challenges, chief of which has been cases of multiple taxation from government agencies at the various levels.
As such in a telephone conversation with The Guardian on Monday, on the backdrop of the planned new taxes and levies by government agencies on the sector, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, opined that there was need for clear understanding of those agencies with statutory powers to regulate and oversee what happens in the sector.
Adebayo, an engineer, said this new move is a case of multiple taxation and over regulation of the sector, stressing that operators have long before now cried out about the way government agencies at all levels see telecommunications operators as ‘cash cow’, and foisted all forms of levies on the operators.
Indeed, ALTON had raised an alarm recently on the planned environmental (ecological) levy, among others, which it claimed is already being demanded in Imo and Abia States from operators whose masts and base transceiver stations (BTS) are located there.
The overall effect of the instrument gives legal recognition to the collection of this unwholesome levy and other states to enact similar laws.
Also, the Infrastructure Maintenance Charge or Levy is a charge introduced by the Lagos State Public Private Partnership Law 2011 enabling the state government to collect tolls on selected highways.
Accordingly, ALTON believed that the implication is that by this recognition, Lagos state may extend levies to other infrastructures within the states and others will begin to emulate the trend.
Although, the newly appointed Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, at resumption of duties, promised to address the issue of multiple taxation at the federal, state and local government levels as various form of taxation are being introduced on the sector, with groaning from players in the sector on the increase, Adebayo further stated that the potentially troublesome aspect of some of the instrument are that, apart from recognizing and approving, it does not fix the taxable rate; hence the relevant tier of government is at liberty to arbitrary fix or increase the rate if it chooses.
On such premise, other states may begin to enact laws similar to the Rivers State’s Social Service Contribution Levy and others. “The most disturbing aspect of the entire instrument is that instead of addressing the issue of multiple taxation, it effectively increased the tax burdens of individuals and businesses in Nigeria”, he added.
As such, the ALTON boss stressed that there was need for clear distinction of authorities from those considered to be regulating the industry.
“I find it tough to understand why different government agencies at all levels should be imposing levies and taxes arbitrarily on the sector. The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) should be the only agency to regulate the sector.
“We are not saying that those people should not do their jobs, but they should find a way to get across to the NCC and get clarifications before slamming any payment order on operators in the telecommunications sector”, he stated.