By Martin Ekpeke
The Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has described the proposed bill for an Act to repeal the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which is presently before the Nigerian Senate as an overkill on the country’s telecommunications industry.
In a letter dated January 25th, 2023 and addressed to the Chairman, Senate Committee on ICT and Cyber Security, ALTON noted that with the Bill, NITDA is being empowered to regulate activities that are already under the purview of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
“Presently, the NCC regulates the activities of all telecommunications companies that fall within the purview of digital economy and information technology. Specifically, the NCC with regards to the digital economy is responsible for the monitoring and implementation of the National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025) and the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy,” the letter signed by Engr. Gbenga Adebayo and Gbolahan Awonuga, Chairman and Executive Secretary of ALTON respectively said.
According to ALTON, if the Bill is passed as presently constituted, there is the risk that the Agency, acting properly under the Bill may issue regulations, guidelines and standards with regard to the use of information technology and digital services, which will conflict with the functions of the NCC.
It will also result in double and possibly conflicting regulations for telecommunications companies in Nigeria.
“In the circumstance, we humbly request that since telecommunications are already being regulated by the NCC with regards to information technology and digital services, the Distinguished Members of the Committee have telecommunication companies excluded from group of persons (Operators) who will come under the control and regulation of the Agency with regards to information technology and digital services,” it urged.
ALTON also argued that the tax sought to be introduced by the Bill, in addition to existing taxes and levies would overburden telecommunication companies.
The Bill, by Section 13, seeks to establish a Fund, which is to be known as the National Information Technology Development Fund, which shall be used to advance the country’s digital economy objectives and related purposes. In order to fund the activities of the Fund, the Bill provides that, Companies and Enterprises, including mobile and fixed telecommunications companies with a turnover of N100,000,000 (One Hundred Million Naira), shall pay a levy of one percent of the profit before tax.
Presently, the telecommunications companies in Nigeria are overburdened with over 39 different taxes and levies, a bulk of which are multiple or excessive. If this new tax is added to existing taxes, it will effectively increase Nigeria’s corporate income tax rate to about 36% which is one of the highest rates in the world. This will not give a good image of our country and give the impression that our Campaign for ease of doing business in Nigeria is not genuine.
Meanwhile, ALTON has asked for the total exclusion of telecom companies from the ambit of the NITDA’s operations as there are no provisions for its liaising with the NCC in promulgating any regulations. The fear that its regulations may conflict with existing NCC regulations or duplicate and further complicate them is not unfounded since there is no requirement by the Bill for synchronization between the Agency and NCC.
The umbrella body of all licensed telecom operators in Nigeria believes that the role of NITDA as an agency is for the development of the ICT sector. The focus should be on how to empower the agency on this development and not another regulator for the industry thereby causing unnecessary confusion and disestablishing the gains the sector has made so far to the Nigeria economy.