Telecommunication subscribers have rejected a new Federal Government directive to impose a tax on telephone calls in the nation to fund free healthcare for the vulnerable.
The telecom tax in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the vulnerable group in Nigeria, according to the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, last week.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerians made 150.83 billion minutes of calls in 2020. This translates to 9.05 trillion seconds of calls, meaning the new tax will generate 9.05 trillion kobo, which converts to N90.49billion, yearly.
The new tax is coming despite moves by telecom companies to increase the price of calls, SMS, and data by 40 per cent as a result of an unfavourable operating environment.
According to the Health Insurance Act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.
It added that the Vulnerable Group Fund will subsidise the provision of healthcare to children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.
The Act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that one of the sources of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund shall include a telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.
Other sources of funding outlined in the Act includes a basic healthcare provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls; money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the government; motley that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.
According to the new Act, every resident in Nigeria is expected to obtain health insurance.
However, telecom subscribers under the aegis of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, have said they will reject this new move by the government.
The President of the association, Adeolu Ogunbanjo, said, “It is quite unfortunate that the government is viewing telecoms as a cash cow. We are saying there is a lot of corruption in the system, and rather than curb that, they want to focus on the telecoms sector.
“What do they mean by vulnerable? Vulnerable people in the nation are probably about 80 per cent of the population, we are all vulnerable. What has happened to the health budget? Why should it touch telecoms again? The government should look elsewhere for money. This new action is only likely to impoverish more Nigerians and they are masquerading as helping the vulnerable. This is not right”.
Recently, telecom companies wrote to the Federal Government, through the NCC, on the worsening conditions of the industry.
A source at the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) said that the NCC and ALTON would meet this week in order to discuss the issues disturbing the industry.
Commenting on the act on his LinkedIn page, the Fiscal Policy Partner, and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said this new law would translate to a nine per cent tax on GSM calls.
PH Law School Campus Ready For Commissioning …As Wike Hands Over C Of O To Ngige …Says Institution’ll Be Self-Sustaining
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has re-emphasised that the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt has been provided to be a self-sustaining institution in Nigeria, saying that the campus was now ready for commissioning.
To achieve that mandate, Wike, last Monday, handed over the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of adjoining property to the campus acquired by the Rivers State Government to the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN.
The presentation was made when Wike conducted the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, together with the Director General of Nigeria Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma, SAN, and other dignitaries round structures within the law campus that were completed and ready for formal handover.
Wike said the acquisition of the adjoining property to the campus would enable the operators of the campus to use them for sundry commercial and revenue generating activities in order to meet the financial needs of the law school in Port Harcourt.
“We are using this opportunity to present the Certificate of Occupancy of the property we have acquired and paid for by the Rivers State Government for the Nigerian Law School, Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas, Port Harcourt Campus to you (chairman).
“We are giving the property to you for the purpose of making some revenue to run this campus. Whatever revenue derived is to be utilised for this campus alone.
“Very soon, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and the Director General will meet to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). It will ensure that you won’t take revenue from here to subsidise for other campuses. Any money you make here; put it here in this campus.”
Wike also told them that with the construction work on all the structures in the campus now completed, the state government awaits the Council of Legal Education to choose a date when they desire the campus to be formally handed over to them.
In his response, Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, noted that they were on inspection of the facility, and were amazed at what they have seen.
“17th July, 2021 was when we came for the foundation laying ceremony, and the governor promised that this project will be delivered in one-year. Behold, today is June 27th, not up to July yet, and he had delivered.
“Recall that when we were doing the ground breaking ceremony, the governor promised that every month, he will give this campus N10million for four years, and will be given in advance, that is about N480million to run this institution.
“When I learnt that he had acquired adjoining property: houses, shopping malls and other business facilities for the law school to rent out to raise revenue to run this institution, I can tell you, it is unparalleled,” Ngige said.
On his part, the Director General of Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma, described the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus in Port Harcourt as the best and mother of all law campuses in Nigeria.
“On behalf of the council, we are very grateful for a promise made and promise kept. This is the turning point in the history of legal education in Nigeria”, Chiroma said.
During the inspection of the lecturers’ quarters in New Government Residential Area in Port Harcourt, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onueze C. J. Okocha, SAN, said Wike was a performer, who keeps promises and has delivered the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Port Harcourt Campus that was tastefully constructed and furnished before the record time he set for himself.
Also speaking, another former President of the NBA, Okey Wali, SAN, noted that Wike had done this to show that he was a lover of democracy and for promotion of the judicial system in Nigeria.
The Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, described the project as historic and iconic because there was nothing like it across the country.
He said Wike has provided it as a commitment to advancing legal education in the country.
Again, INEC Extends CVR For Nigerians …Warns Against Political Campaigns
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has, again, extended the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise in the country until further notice.
This is even as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cautioned political parties and their proxies against hiding under the excuse of the ongoing voters’ registration exercise to engage in any form of politicking or campaigns.
The commission made this position known in a statement signed by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye Esq, in Abuja, yesterday.
The statement read: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today, (Thursday, 30th June, 2022) and deliberated on a number of issues, including the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, the issuance of Certified True Copies (CTCs) of documents and the commencement of the Uploading of the List and Personal Particulars of Governorship and State Assembly Candidates.
“The Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) will continue nationwide, and all the Resident Electoral Commissioners and Electoral Officers have been directed to continue with the exercise pending further directives from the commission.
“The commission has consistently reiterated its resolve to continue to provide electoral services commission has yet again deployed additional machines to areas of pressure and will continue to serve the people of Nigeria.
“Furthermore, the case at the Federal High Court relating to the terminal date of the CVR came up yesterday Wednesday, 29th June, 2022, and based on the request of the Commission, the Court granted an accelerated hearing and adjourned the matter to Monday 4th July 2022 for hearing of the substantive matter. The commission will give an update after court hearing next week.
“The Commission has been inundated with applications for CTCs of various documents. So far, 186 requests for CTCs, some running into hundreds of pages, have been processed. The Commission is working round the clock, including weekends, to attend to all such requests. We wish to assure political parties, aspirants, candidates, and all applicants for CTCs of documents that their applications will be treated expeditiously and will be issued in earnest.
“By the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the commission, Political Parties that conducted valid Governorship and State Assembly primaries shall upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates between 1st and 15th July, 2022.
“We urge political parties to scrutinise the list and personal particulars of the candidates they propose to sponsor at the election to avoid any mix-up and duplication of names. Political parties are advised not to wait until the last day before uploading the list and personal particulars of their candidates.
“The Candidates Nomination Portal will shut down at 6pm on 15th July, 2022. Political parties that have challenges with uploading documents should contact the commission’s Help – Desk, through the dedicated telephone lines or contact the candidate nomination centre at the commission’s headquarters”, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cautioned political parties and their proxies against hiding under the excuse of the ongoing voters’ registration exercise to engage in any form of politicking or campaign.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Kano State INEC, Risqua Shehu, issued the warning at a press conference in his office in Kano, yesterday, saying that that any political party that was found wanting in this regard would face the law.
Risqua, a professor, reminded the political parties that doing such was against the dictates of the Electoral Act, which has since set forth a time frame for campaigns for the governorship and presidential elections.
“The commission monitors and would need to establish full proof cases and then allow prosecution to take place. We do not prosecute, but we gather evidences against any defaulting political party and I assure you that that would be done”, he stated.
While applauding the upsurge in the number of registrants in the state, he, however, lamented the huge cases of illegal and double registrations, saying that over 40percent of registrants in Kano State were found to have registered before.
Risqua explained that INEC has been making concerted efforts to educate the people that the PVCs issued by the commission do not expire; hence there was no need for anybody to register twice.
He cautioned that, “When one is found guilty, he is liable to a fine or an imprisonment or both. There is a provision for a fine of N100, 000 or one year imprisonment or both.
“But at the moment, I am not in the position to establish what the commission would do to those with double registration, considering the huge number of offenders across the country”, he said.
“The beautiful thing is this. We have made adequate arrangements in our robust system to be able to identify and eliminate all those who have registered twice and cancel their new registration and retain only the old information that is there. That is what the commission is doing now”.
While appreciating all stakeholders that have been sensitising and supporting eligible Nigerians on the registration exercise, he stressed that under no condition should any individual, cyber -café, civil society or group extort or collect money from any registrant for that exercise.
Reps Plan Separate Contributory Pension Scheme For NASS
The House of Representatives has begun the process of pulling out the National Assembly from the Contributory Pension Scheme under the administration of the National Pension Commission.
The House is to create a separate body to administer matters relating to pensions for workers in the federal parliament.
At the plenary, yesterday, the House passed for second reading, the legislation titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Pension Reform Act, 2014 to Exclude/Exempt the National Assembly Service from the Contributory Pension Scheme and Establish the National Assembly Service Pension Board.’
Chairman of the House Committee on National Planning and Economic Development, Hon Olododo Cook, who sponsored the bill, said the proposal was to exempt the personnel of the National Assembly from the Contributory Pension Scheme and to establish a National Assembly Service Pensions Board “to be charged with the responsibility of administering the pension scheme for personnel of the service.”
Cook stated, “This bill is in consequence of the exit of the service from the application of the contributory pension scheme under the Pensions Reform Act, 2014.”
The bill seeks to amend Section 5(1)(a) of the Act by inserting the words ‘the National Assembly service’ to read thus: “The categories of persons exempted from the Contributory Pension are (a) the categories of persons mentioned in Section 291 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), members of the intelligence community and the National Assembly service personnel.”
Clause 2(1) of the bill also proposes that, “There is established a pension board which shall be charged with the responsibility of managing payment of pensions and gratuities to all personnel of the service.
“Application of the bill to personnel who retired before the commencement of this bill: (2) This bill shall apply to all personnel of the service, including those who had retired before the commencement of this bill. (3) The retirement benefits of personnel referred to in Subsection (2) above shall be adjusted to be commensurate with the provisions of this bill.”
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