Senate Committee on Communications yesterday cautioned the federal government over the proposed Communications Service Tax Bill.
The committee noted that the bill, which has already been sent to the National Assembly, has the capacity to make life more difficult for majority of Nigerians.
The bill seeks to make provisions for certain compulsory payments from the communications consumers across the country.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji expressed apprehension over the bill during the 2016 budget defence meeting with the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and the Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF.
The lawmaker noted the economic implications of the tax, particularly on the general welfare of low income earners in the country.
Nnaji said, “There has been strident outcry by consumer rights groups and industry stakeholders against the Communications Service Tax Bill, CST, 2015, currently before the National Assembly.
“It is argued that the bill will limit access to communication as it will affect the lower income consumers forcing them to abandon or reduce subscription to certain services.
“This committee is yet to be availed with the contents of this bill but it is important to state unequivocally here that as the elected representatives of the Nigerian people, while we recognise the current administration’s efforts to widen its revenue base, conscious efforts must be made to ensure that the socio-economic well-being of the citizenry remains sacrosanct.
“We assure Nigerians that this committee will engage in wide consultations with all concerned stakeholders in considering this bill if it is referred to the committee.”
Nnaji urged industry players to live above board in their efforts to improve the economy.
He stated the position of his committee on some salient issues trending in the telecommunications industry in the country.
According to him, “These are issues bordering on regulatory and operational environment in the sector such as the statutory independence of the industry regulator and the obligations demanded from industry operators to observe and respect regulatory directives.”
He assured that “while the committee will in no way support any draconian regulation by the commission, it will not also fold its arms to witness any disrespect and disregard for the directives of constituted authorities of the commission by any operator under its regulatory oversight.”
From the budget proposal, the total revenue was estimated at N70, 672,492, 000, total recurrent expenditure amounted to N22, 211, 186, 000, total capital expenditure and total special projects respectively stood at N15, 651,475, 000 and N6, 557,708,000.
Provisions for transfers to both USPF and federal government stood at N8, 584, 000, 000 (USPF) while the federal government would be entitled to N17, 668,123, 000.
In their separate responses, the executive vice chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta and the executive secretary of USPF, Mr. Ayuba Shuaibu thanked the committee for its legislative supports.
They gave assurance on their determination to diligently implement the budget if passed.