By John Ikani
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the collection of taxes on every phone call made by Nigerians.
The telecom tax in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is a part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the Vulnerable Group in Nigeria.
This is coming despite recent increment by telecommunication companies for the price of their services as a result of harsh economic operating conditions.
Legal backing for the tax collection were contained in the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari last week.
The act includes a provision under Section 26(1c) which states that the source of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls. With call rates at about 11kobo per second, this translates to a 9 per cent tax on GSM calls.
The tax is meant to subsidise the provision of healthcare to the group defined to include children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.
For funding, the act provides several options such as basic health care provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls; money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the Government; money that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.
It would be recalled that telecom companies had weeks ago, wrote to the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) demanding an upward review of calls and data tariff by 40%.
The levy, according to the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, is in response to the country’s rising operating costs.