Early in the month of October, it was brought to the attention of Nigerians that there would be a 9% communication tax. This was proposed by former Senate Presidency contender Senator Ali Ndume. Even more recent is the reiteration of this position by the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babtunde Fowler.
“I will put it this way, Nigerians talk a lot on the phone; they even talk more than is required; so for them to have capacity or revenue to talk that much, I don’t see any harm in paying a little bit more to government”. The Chairman said
The implication of this communication tax becoming law is that there will be about a 9% charge on not just phone calls made by Nigerians but also extends to text messages, MMS and data enabled messages. That is, there will be increase in the rates already put in place by network providers.
The FIRS Chairman made his position on the issue known at the Nigerian Economic Summit held at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. The said communication tax has officially passed its first reading and moving on for second reading at the National Assembly. The present rate of 9% is to replace the then 2.2% increase in VAT tax proposal. The chairman has stressed that making this move will help the government to generate enough revenue to boost the state of the economy. He further emphasized that many developed countries Nigerians are aspiring to be like follow the similar path of tax increment in order to improve on the state of their economy. Nigerians so far hold a contrary opinion.
The major criticisms surrounding this statement and imminent act of the National Assembly has to do with the current state of the economy. Putting into consideration low minimum wage, employment issues, mass poverty and many other problems the nation is famous for; many Nigerians have been reluctant to embrace the change. They believe that the nation has not gotten to the sort of economic position that will enable the communication tax function successfully.
Another most Nigerians fear has to do with the actual network providers. Poor network services and unnecessarily high network charges have been the constant complaint of Nigerians over the years. This had formerly led to the bill passed by the 8th National Assembly which to a great extent helped to curb the issues of untraceable charges by network providers. However, the present the 9% communication tax move by the Senate can be said to be a case of going back to make that particular law almost impractical. This simply means a case of network providers reverting back to claiming unnecessary charges from consumers.
Could this eventually call for regressing to the era of handwritten letters and post offices?