Telecoms Tax: CITAD Commends Pantami, Reteirates call for National Policy on Community Networks
Press statement by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Last month we at the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) were shocked by the callous proposal from the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Madam Shamsuna Zainab Ahmed to up the tax on Telecommunication services which will make service more costly.
Already Nigerians are paying one of their higher rates especially in relation to personal income levels. Indeed, the Broadband Plan of the Government acknowledges that cost of data is already too high and unaffordable.
In its words, it says: “The challenge with this affordability benchmark in Nigeria’s context is, given high income disparities, the median monthly income of N19,460 ($54) is much lower than average income levels of N60,000 ($167) per month.
Thus, internet bundles at these price points remain largely unaffordable for the majority of Nigerians” We immediately condemned the move as one capable of scuttling the digital transformation of agenda of the country as it would price out internet access and use for many Nigerians, further bringing down more Nigerians to the negative side of the digital divide.
In an era in which the governments all over the world are, following the UN resolution that the internet is a human rights and that no one should be left behind, putting everything possible to ensure that all their citizens are lifted up to the positive side of the digital divide, it would have been extreme absurdity to implement a policy that would reverse the little gains that are already being recorded by the country. Nigeria still has about half of its population lacking meaningful connectivity. It was in this content that we called on the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Ali Isa Pantami to ensure that this proposal of raising tax on telecommunication was rejected by the Government and instead new measures should be taken to crash down the cost of both access devices and service. We are happy that the Minister did not waste time in forthrightly opposing this. He stood his ground and eventually won for Nigerians.
We solute his courage in going against the current in a government where increasing revenue is the basis of policy making, and his unassailable focus and commitment to the digital transformation of Nigeria. We urge him to do more and to embrace bolder initiatives that can address the challenges of digital exclusion in the country.
In particular, we reiterate our call that the Government should without further delay provide a National Policy on Community Networks that will help in enabling communities to mobilize their resources and endowments to end their digital isolation.
Y. Z. Ya’u