The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has asked the federal government to drop its planned introduction of new Communication Service Tax (CST) which if passed into law, would automatically allow the federal government to place a nine per cent tax charges on all phone calls, SMS, MMS, data package and other telecoms transactions.
In a press statement that was jointly signed by President of the TUC, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama and its acting Secretary General, Barro Simeso Amachree yesterday, the union described the proposed tax as an exploitation of the already impoverished masses.
“We call on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to suspend the bill immediately because the masses are already overburdened with multiple taxation. It makes no sense for the country to initiate policies that would stifle businesses when it seeks to woe and attract even more investors.
“If we sufficiently understand the minister, we wonder how he expects such tax to be paid by any worker in a country where the national minimum wage is N18,000 and at a time when workers’ take-home pay no longer take’s them home. Apart from exploiting the already impoverished masses, the policy would also discourage investment and lead to loss of jobs,” the union stated.
Minister of Communication, Mr. Adebayo Shittu had during the private sector dialogue session that was organised by the Lagos Chamber’s of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in Lagos hinted that the planned tax that has passed first reading in both chambers of the national assembly was conceived to help the federal government develop the ICT sector and implement its policies and plans in an integrated manner.
He claimed that Nigeria would earn as much as N20 billion monthly if the bill is passed into law, adding that it would also help to cushion some of the country’s economic challenges and fund budget deficits in no small measure.
But the union said “while we appreciate the minister’s concern on how to fund the budget, should the government’s focus not rather be on ensuring more judicious use of revenue derived from value added tax (VAT), Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), stamp duties, vehicle license, passport fees, customs duty, petroleum profit tax (PPT) and other taxes collected from the masses and companies? And would it not be more appropriate for the desired additional taxes to be imposed on the GSM operators and other players in the communications industry rather than the poor masses?”
Voicing their concern over the issue, the group wonders why the common people should always be at the receiving end of government policies.
, asserting that most government officers rarely pay for anything, including their children’s school fees and utility bills.
“The cost is on us the masses,” Kaigama said.
Further, he said the fact that the country is in economic straits and needs to generate more revenue to deliver on government promises “does not mean that satanic laws that adversely affect disposable income and gross domestic product (GDP) should be promulgated.”
The TUC which said that it was not consulted in the stakeholders meeting where the decision was taken said various tiers of government that aim to increase their revenues must do so by looking inward to the vast deposits of natural resources within their respective jurisdictions.
The Organised Private Sector (OPS) under the telecommunications arm of the LCCI had also expressed concerns over the proposed taxation operators, saying it would affect consumers’ purchasing power, a situation they say negates the principle of neutrality.