The primary objective of government according to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the welfare and security of the people. Governments in every part of the world work hard to ensure the interest and wellbeing of the citizens are taken care of. It is for this reason that democracy has been described as a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
With the revelation of government’s intention to introduce a new type of tax, the Communication Service Tax (CST) to raise N240 billion annually, one cannot help but wonder whether our government is really for the people? The government is already over-taxing the overburdened poor masses and hemorrhaging their lean finances. With this CST Bill, the poor will no longer be able to enjoy telecoms services at the rate which they currently do.
The CST Bill, if passed into law, will create a horrible situation where students far away from home will not be able to call their parents for urgent and pressing needs and if they choose to still make calls at the same frequency, then they must be ready to cough up the nine percent tax in addition to the cost of the airtime. For the impoverished masses, this tax could mean their inability to afford calls or SMSs to seek help in case of emergencies like armed robbery, fire, accidents or even a woman in labour. The ability to make uninterrupted calls, send short messages or Whatsapp messages have saved several people from terrible situations but the communication service tax will reverse all of these gains by making telecom services expensive.
We have not heard that government is increasing tax on luxury items or other less critical goods and services like alcohol or cigarettes so why then decide to tax telecom services? The news out there is that telecom industry is a cash cow that will be taxed to death but please this tax will be borne by the subscribers who use the services not the telecom companies because the tax will be added unto the cost of the different services.
In Nigeria today, there is no social security and inflation is currently at an all-time high, therefore, the communication service tax bill as it stands today is not beneficial to anybody not even the government and would simply further rather widen the gap between the rich and the poor in the society. Moreso, the impact will be felt more by those with less financial strength. Rather than tax us more, why can’t the government downsize the number of political appointees and aides, fight corruption with sincerity, stop allocation of security votes to governors, stop ecological funds, reduce fat salaries and allowances of lawmakers? By so doing, government can easily raise funds for infrastructure development, without hurting the poor masses.
Emenike Nwosu wrote from 11, Anekwena Street, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State