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Editorial

No To Proposed Telecoms Tariff Hike

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Telecommunications consumers in Nigeria may need to constrict their belts in the days ahead as the Federal Government has completed plans to impose a five per cent excise duty on all telecommunications services ranging from calls, SMS, and data services.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this at a stakeholders’ forum on implementation of excise duty on telecommunications services in Nigeria in Abuja. The event was organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Since the disclosure, Zainab has been pressing that the scheme must be implemented as proposed despite opposition by stakeholders.
According to reports, the five per cent will be added to the already existing 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on telecommunications services. Zainab said the five per cent excise duty is a provision in the Finance Act 2020 but was not carried out. She attributed the delay of its implementation to government’s engagement with stakeholders. The proposed tax, if enforced, will increase impost in the sector to a total of 12.5 per cent.
Like many other countries around the world, Nigeria’s economy has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity and the recent ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. A recession is imminent, food shortages are looming, chronic oil theft continues to compound the problem, leaving the mono economy huffing and puffing.
The 36 state governors have chimed the alarm that they may not be able to pay workers’ salaries in the coming months because of the fast depleting income in the federation accounts. Following these concerns and more, the Finance Minister has seen telecommunications as a sub-sector with the magic wand to save the collapsing economy. The Federal Government must realise that Nigeria’s fiscal challenge is not generaion but reckless expenditure.
The present economic realities in the country render the introduction of such taxes unrealistic and insensitive. The Finance Minister should pay very close attention to the comments of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami, who described the proposed tax as “ill-timed”. Pantami deserves commendation for being on the side of the masses who are suffering the worst economic policies in the history of the country.
At the maiden edition of the Nigerian Telecommunications Indigenous Content Expo (NTICE) organised by the NCC in Lagos, Pantami said he had not been informed officially about the proposed excise duty and promised to challenge the decision. This is an indication that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is working at cross purposes. Although the government will make about N165 billion annually from the tax regime, the decision will impoverish millions of Nigerians.
Excise taxes are usually imposed to discourage the consumption of certain goods such as alcohol and tobacco. In a digitized world, increased taxes on telecommunication services like calls and data will inhibit social interaction and the provision of goods and services. This will adversely affect learning as many institutions now conduct lectures through online channels. It will also limit access to information and participation.
Our standpoint on the mooted tax is consistent with Pantami’s perspective. We reject it because it is insensitive and coming at the wrong time. The scheme would negatively impact the sector. Having observed the immense contribution of the telecom industry to the economy, we urge the Federal Government to rescind the decision forthwith. Such imposition would further aggravate the agony of the Nigerian masses who have already been shoved into adversity and intense poverty.
Similarly, major stakeholders in the sector are kicking against the initiative. The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) are together indisposed to the plan, describing it as anti-people, provocative, strange, insensitive and irresponsible.
Furthermore, the suggested new tax regime is a bizarre idea and a unique development as it is being introduced amid 39 disparate taxes payable by the telecom operators in the country. Certainly, this new tax burden would be passed on to subscribers. Globally, excise duty is charged on goods and products. We are thunderstruck and at a loss as to why this is on services. That is not the case with many other countries.
Rather than saddle Nigerians with manifold taxes, the Federal Government should activate other sources to address the current economic challenges, alarming unemployment, plummeting exchange rate and financial hardship on the citizens. The economy is at its lowest ebb as the purchasing power of Nigerians has dwindled in the face of galloping inflation. Basic domestic commodities, power, energy, and transportation are unreachable for the average Nigerian.
If the five per cent duty tax is put into effect, it is conjectured that it could cost several jobs and lead to a crucial contraction in the sector. The ripple effect could be ill-fated to Nigerians who are burdened with numerous taxations. The government should discontinue the measure, dialogue with stakeholders and find long term solutions to revenue shortfalls in the country, not by frequent resort to desperate quick-fix solutions.
Granted the government needs money, but taxing the telecom sector should not be the only pathway it always seeks to explore. The sector already contributes a lot to the Nigerian economy, and adding more taxes could impact its growth negatively. It will virtually raise tariffs with no direct advantages for either the subscribers or operators. Perhaps, it is time the government began to contemplate taxing other sectors of the economy that are not contributing to national development.

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Editorial

Hurray, Nigeria Is 62!

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Instead of grappling with the elevating issues of development, the country’s over 200 million population and more than 250 ethnic nationalities are smouldering with dissatisfaction about the present, and anxious about a precarious future. Now, the grand promise and hope of “unity in diversity” lie in bloody ruins, and separatist agitations have again taken a centre stage in national politics. If the years of military dictatorship are seen as “years eaten by locusts,” then the inhumane descent of Nigeria today can be said to be “more years eaten by the locusts.”
Every sector of our national life has been affected, from governance to the economy, security and national cohesion. Setbacks and deficits in each area of development define the country. Traumatised, abused and oppressed, young people have lost hope in the country. Just like in 1966, Nigeria is once again on the fast track to the point of no return. All Nigerians should be well-meaning enough to embark on conscientious sober reflection on the state of the nation.
Successive leaders have abandoned our founding fathers’ dream of Nigeria and replaced it with a motive for self-aggrandizement. The country is torn apart, the people are poor, life and property are insecure, and life is worthless. Now and then, we witness Nigerians loathe their country and spit out the worst abuse on their homeland. While the wealthy have acquired foreign citizenship for themselves and their families, others are working frantically to do so or emigrate from Nigeria.
This is Nigeria for the next generation of leaders: a disillusioned, morally weak, socially divided, religiously lost and economically stupefied country. This is not the way of a truly independent nation. To chart a path to progress, however, Nigeria needs people with big dreams, especially those who do not want to do things the usual way. To justify any independence claim, Nigerians must first determine the basis for their assertion to independence.
Nigeria’s problems are foundational. What we have is a corporate catastrophe. The country is a complicated, intricate, and flummoxing organism where wrongs rule and doing right is impossible. Do the different people who make up the nation see themselves as Nigerians in the first place? Or do they profess allegiance to their clan or tribe as their most basic identity? Nigerians require a sense of national pride and ethos that draws on all the values, spirits, and cultures of different peoples.
To this end, the political class and ruling elite must not place one part of the country above other parts or treat other parts as second-class citizens. Leadership is not racial domination or selfish power imbalances; rather, it is a tendency to truly carry out a mission for the common good. President Muhammadu Buhari should accept that under his leadership, Nigeria has witnessed its worst reversal ever. Leaders and followers must do their best to ensure that they aspire to a new and better Nigeria.
As she commemorates the 62nd anniversary of independence, Nigeria’s top priority should be leadership in Africa and the black world. The country is naturally given this leadership role, and she has indeed played a convincing role in her past activities on the African continent and abroad. Leaders should look to the exemplary and inspiring role this country can play 50 years from now. However, this will only happen if Nigeria shakes off the incompetence, and greed ingrained in its leadership.
What is there to celebrate is the tenacity of Nigerians in their decision to have their country despite a repeated siege by various outlaws. These Nigerians include farmers and locals trapped in terrorist and bandit enclaves, schoolchildren being hunted back and forth, disillusioned women and children in IDP camps, soldiers in trenches and police officers who sacrifice their lives, and lonely Nigerians who every day hope in God that this too will pass. It is these Nigerians who hold this country together and deserve the greatest courtesy.
Economically, Nigeria has fallen behind its peers. Diversification gave way to a single product model. Agriculture was once the backbone of the country and its defunct regions, contributing more than 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1960. Today, it is a paltry 22.13 per cent of nominal GDP by June 2021. The Central Bank of Nigeria says oil and gas contributed less than 1.0 per cent of GDP and 6.65 per cent of export earnings in 1961, but contributed 47.72 per cent of GDP and 98.72 per cent of export earnings in 2000.
Despite successive governments’ efforts to industrialise the country and achieve sustainable economic growth, stakeholders in the real sector believe that the economy is gradually declining. Industrialisation, seen as the only means to achieve economic growth and development, remains unfulfilled 62 years after the founding of the nation. The scarcity of industry, stunted growth in manufacturing, rising unemployment, and lack of food and investment, among others, remain a great challenge.
Infrastructure has failed to pace with the tremendous population growth assessed at 45.14 million by the United States Census Bureau in 1960, to the estimated 211 million in 2021. Roads, airports, ports, and power are inadequate, requiring $3 trillion to fix, says the African Development Bank. In human development, failure is writ large. Whereas the poverty level was 15 per cent at independence, it averaged 27.2 per cent from 1980 to 2010 and reached 69 per cent by 2011.
Nigerians must vote wisely in the next year’s general elections by choosing a good leader. They have to be astute in their voting and avoid elevating needless issues. Nigerians should never again elect nepotistic, tribalistic and religious fundamentalists into governance. We need to salvage and retrieve our country from imminent collapse and looming disaster. The election next year is yet another opportunity to vote candidates that can transform the country and eliminate the pains the citizens are currently going through.
The duty to save our nation is a moral responsibility. A great nation is built based on the character of its people. If Nigeria has to be great, everyone has to take responsibility; everyone has to commit to doing what is fitting. This is a fundamental moral obligation to the state. That is what true independence means.

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Editorial

Ridding The World Of Nuclear Weapons

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After a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament on September 26, 2013, the United Nations General
Assembly (UNGA) designated September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an opportunity to highlight the need to eliminate nuclear weapons and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them.
The United Nations has commemorated the Day each year since 2014, providing an opportunity for governments and some civil society groups to discuss progress and priorities for nuclear disarmament. One of the oldest goals of the United Nations is achieving global nuclear disarmament. But today, around 13,080 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernise their nuclear arsenals.
In 1946, the General Assembly’s first resolution established that the Atomic Energy Commission had the mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of not only atomic weapons but also all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. UNGA endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament in 1959. The first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, held in 1978, further recognised that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective.
The United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which limits the spread of military nuclear technology by the recognised nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear nations wishing to build or acquire atomic weapons. The NPT is uniquely unequal and ineffective, as it obliges non-nuclear States to forgo the development of nuclear weapons while allowing the established nuclear States to keep theirs.
On July 7, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted. This Treaty is significant because it is the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament and elimination to have been negotiated in 20 years. The treaty was subsequently adopted by a vote with 122 States in favour. While this is commendable on its own, the efficacy of the treaty is questionable because none of the current nuclear-armed States supports the treaty or has signed it.
As the world grapples with new security challenges, it is pertinent now more than ever for global leaders to uphold the rules and principles of international humanitarian law in ensuring that weapons with catastrophic humanitarian outcomes, such as nuclear weapons, are eliminated from the earth. The 2017 TPNW presents an opportunity to achieve that goal. Accordingly, we call on all States to fulfil their commitment to nuclear disarmament by becoming parties to the treaty.
The beginning point in any discussion about nuclear weapons should be their terrifying explosive yield. Historical records of the disastrous impacts of the detonation of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August and September 1945 reveal horrid facts about the devastation caused by weapons of much lesser effects than the ones harboured in the military arsenals of some nuclear weapons’ possessors today.
The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki raised the consciousness of the international community about the dangers of nuclear weapons. The ensuing clamour to regulate nuclear weapons jump-started the development of an international legal framework to prevent the proliferation of deadly weapons. Regrettably, the nuclear weapons question is embroiled in the politics of power and dominance, causing nuclear-possessing States to drive deliberations on nuclear weapons with a focus on the control of proliferation rather than on total elimination.
The real focus of the major treaties on nuclear weapons is either to prevent proliferation or elimination of nuclear ammunition. However, it is sad that the nuclear-possessing States have wavered in their commitment to complete disarmament. The International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has engaged to name and shame States that are not a party to TPNW, but how effective that effort will be remains to be seen. Their refusal to adhere to the treaty undermines its effectiveness, and there has been little pressure on these States to change their minds.
It seems superfluous to point out that for the treaty to be successfully and comprehensively implemented, Nuclear Weapons States have to cooperate, be parties to it and proactively implement it, as a large part of it addresses them. The treaty has an embedded acknowledgement that it would have opposition, hence Article 12 enjoins each State party to encourage others to sign, ratify, approve or accede to it, with the motive of universal adherence of all nations, eventually.
Undoubtedly, any use of nuclear weapons in the war between States or indiscriminate attacks by non-State actors would create catastrophic situations for humankind and the natural environment. The possibilities of nuclear accidents also remain, and every day that nuclear weapons remain on earth, someone is suffering from health degradation as a result. As long as some countries continue to have nuclear weapons, others will feel entitled to them as well.
The Russia–Ukraine war has raised the spectre of a nuclear disaster. The recent Russia’s missile attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia atomic plant points to that. This should attract more severe global sanctions on Russia, as the act represents a dire threat to the world. It was the first time that a nation has attacked a fuelled and functioning nuclear power plant. The unprovoked attack could endanger the safety of entire Europe. Russia must be stopped from carrying out military activities around the site.
Every drop of energy exerted in fighting for a world free of nuclear weapons is crucial. World leaders and policy-makers, non-governmental activists; all have a role to play in their circle of influence, from the diligent ratification of the relevant treaties to a march to raise awareness and spread the word. The Chernobyl disaster in former Soviet Ukraine in 1986 stands as a lasting example of why it is vital to ensure all nuclear power plants are dismantled or at worst have the highest standards of safety and security.
With the looming threat of a new Cold War, it is expedient for all nations, particularly countries in possession of nuclear weapons, to consider the tragic humanitarian consequences of the use of these weapons on human health, the environment, and vital economic resources, among others. Everyone has a role to play in building a future without nuclear weapons. There is no alternative to eliminating these horrible projectiles and creating a sustainable global peace based on common security.

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Editorial

Enough Of Killings In Anambra

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Tragedy struck again in Anambra State just at a time the people of the state were hilariously heaving a sigh of relief that normalcy was gradually returning after over one year of living in deep-seated fear, following the activities of “unknown gunmen” that killed and maimed several people.
This time around, the victims were Senator Ifeanyi Ubah representing Anambra South Senatorial Zone in the country’s upper legislative chambers and his aides, who were returning to the Senator’s hometown, Nnewi, from a function. The September 11 assault on the convoy of Senator Ubah in Enugu-Ukwu, Anambra State, draws attention to the dire security situation in the South East.
Two police officers, two Ubah’s aides and a Department of State Services (DSS) operative were among the dead. Also among the dead was a businessman from Nri, Anaocha Local Government Area. It was reported that the businessman was based in Lagos but relocated to his hometown, following alleged attempts on his life after a failed business deal. The attackers were after him, only for the Senator’s convoy to arrive at the scene when the gunmen had ambushed their target.
Another version indicated that it was a targeted assassination attempt on Ubah. According to reports, the foray on the Senator had a link with the sacked Chairman of Nnewi North Local Government Council, whose wife died mysteriously. It was gathered that the man was Ubah’s boy, whom the Senator brought to political limelight. The source added that another businessman allegedly having issues with Ubah influenced the man’s political predicament.
Recall that some parts of the South-East, especially Imo State and Anambra State, have been reeling from incessant attacks by “unknown gunmen”. The situation worsened following the April 5, 2021 blitzkrieg on the Imo police headquarters and the correctional centre. About 1,844 inmates were freed, some of them hardened criminals. Since then, police stations have been assailed and arms carted away.
Ahead of the attack on Ubah and his convoy, prominent South Easterners had been gruesomely murdered in the region. Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili, was killed along with eight others at Nkpor in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra. Director-General, Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), Enugu, Prof Samuel Ndubuisi, and a police officer attached to him were shot dead in Enugu.
Also, the member representing Aguata State Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Okechukwu Okoye, and a former member of the State House of Assembly, Nelson Achukwu, were beheaded by unknown persons. Traditional rulers and religious leaders were equally not left out. Some were kidnapped and never seen again. Many security operatives, remarkably policemen at checkpoints, have been brutally murdered in the region.
Most villagers have fled their homes, while those living in cities have ceased from travelling home. Many who journey home hardly use their vehicles for fear of being identified, abducted or even killed. Although security agents may be doing their best to bring the violence to a halt, they have also been accused of engaging in extrajudicial activities. Some, especially young men, have had to flee for fear of arrest and detention.
The recent bloody incident in Anambra is deeply regrettable. It is wicked, barbaric, senseless and knavish. We condemn the savage attacks on Ubah and his aides and call for the strengthening and overhauling of the security architecture of the state in particular and the nation at large. Law enforcement agents should work harder to fish out the perpetrators and prosecute them. It should matter less what organisation such criminals are representing.
One worrisome development for us is the continuous attacks despite repeated government assurances to address the ubiquitous security crisis. But even more discommoding is the fact that the perpetrators remain unknown, while their grouse and motive are unspecified. The Federal Government should intervene urgently, failure of which the heinous and barbaric killings may continue unabated, subjecting Anambra people to untold apprehension and suffering.
We think that the failed assassination attempt on Ubah and the killing of others, just like many other attacks across the South-East geopolitical zone, are perpetrated by implacable enemies of Ndigbo. We maintain that the provocative action signposts the collapse of the country’s security architecture, which, in turn, has rubbed off on the capacity of security operatives to tackle crime and criminality frontally.
The apparent dilemma in the South-East is an obvious pointer that the elite and political leaders have completely lost touch with the people. The widening gap between the rich and the aggrieved poor in the country is rearing its ugly head in the type of violence that society is exposed to in recent times. Therefore, political leaders have to rise above mischief and find a way to calm down the youths.
Leadership in the embattled zone has taken a nosedive and the people are more divided than ever. The governors, including Soludo, need immediate assistance and full support from traditional rulers and other stakeholders to stop the violence in the region. It is not enough for both the state and central governments to express alarms about the killings or offer a huge amount of money to unravel the killers. They must find a lasting solution and end the appalling massacres.
The Anambra people want to see what the government is doing to arrest the lingering insecurity before the situation gets out of hand. It is all about the safety and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government. The “unknown gunmen” should not be more powerful than the state apparatus.

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