Minister of the Communications and Digital Economy, Profession Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has opposed the proposed imposition of 5% on telecommunications services by the Federal Government, saying that the move was ill-timed.
This is even as the minister has reaffirmed the Federal Government’s determination to reverse the trend of importation of all types of telecommunications products, especially where production in Nigeria is possible.
The minister who spoke at the first indigenous telecom content expo at the Landmark Center in Lagos got an immediate commendation from the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who told the audience that the Minister’s efforts and support has spurred the Commission to take certain steps that have yielded immediate results that were being showcased at the expo.
The visibly infuriated Pantami took a swipe at the recent efforts to impose a 5 per cent Excise Duty on telecommunications services in Nigeria, arguing that the Ministry which oversees the industry was not consulted and that the timing of such duty in a period of hardship is being witnessed in Nigeria today is antithetical to the growth of the industry.
Pantami told his audience, including the Chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunications, Hon. Akeem Adeniyi Adeyemi, that his position was already shared by the National Assembly which was also not also consulted on this issue before it was announced.
“I was not consulted before the decision on 5 per cent excise duty was reached, and it was unfair to impose such a tax on an industry that was already burdened with other taxes and already contributing about 17 per cent to the country’s revenue”, he said.
“We must do what we need to do to protect the industry. Beyond making our opinions known, we will take legitimate and legal steps to stop any plan against the interest of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry”, he said.
He emphasised that Government has put efforts towards the protection of the telecom industry, which contributes impressively to the GDP, by insisting on a drastic reduction in the reliance on foreign products.
He, however, warned against the importation of local content products like SIM Cards that can be produced in the country.
Speaking further on the efforts of the Commission to pursue indigenous content in the industry, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Danbatta, said the objective of the policy is to transform the enormous strides achieved by the telecom industry in the last two decades into long-term indigenous economic development outcomes for Nigerian companies and citizenry.
Danbatta said the Commission has taken various steps to ensure that this process is painstakingly pursued through capacity strengthening, institutional building and strategic policy tools which will further promote domestic and economic linkages, job creation and the participation of local Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in the telecom value chain via the supply of goods and services to the sector.