The recent announcement by the Minister of Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu on the intention of the Federal Government to introduce a new tax on calls and other activities made on mobile telephones by subscribers of telecommunications service providers in Nigeria is clearly yet another means to overburden Nigerians, majority of whom are already excruciatingly strangulated by the prevailing hardships occasioned by the downturn of our national economy.
Nigerians, especially workers, are already contending with multiple taxes which we all pay as workers despite the fact that public infrastructures and services these taxes are meant to provide are either unavailable or unaffordable to the ordinary citizens, especially workers, peasants and the poor while the rich minority and corporate organisations, including multinational companies have continued to evade payment of taxes with unbridled impunity. Indeed, not a few multinational companies operate freely without paying taxes just as they ferry multi billion dollars in profits out of the country unimpeded while workers obediently pay their taxes under the auspices of Pay As You Earn, Income Tax, Value Added Tax, Consumption Tax etc even as their wages continuously slide in value as they can no longer take care of family needs.
While we have no doubts about the ailing condition of our economy, workers and the poor cannot bear the brunt of the flagrant abuses by past governments and their cronies which has brought the national economy to comatose as a direct consequence of corruption, which dominated governance in our country for decades unchecked despite constant condemnations, warnings and protests by labour and its allies.
Taxing the poor is not the solution to our present economic crisis; it has never been proven anywhere in the world to wake up dying economies even as it is obvious that it is the usual “No Alternative” solutions rammed down our throats by neo liberal institutions through our governments.
We see the proposal to further impose taxes on the poor as an open affront that will lead to greater social crisis with the attendant potential to destroy the whole essence of good governance, which is all that is required to make any government unpopular.
The real principles of taxation is to make the rich pay more for the benefit of society in general and not to expropriate the downtrodden who have never benefitted from the affluence enjoyed by those responsible for diverting our collective patrimony to the advantage of the very few individuals with unbridled access to public funds.
What the government need do to ensure sustainable development is to create and empower institutions that are responsible for industrial growth and development targeted at generating massive quality employment for our youths. It is not only deceitful but economically unviable to give the impression to unemployed youths that the touted Communications Tax is intended to create jobs for them as this has become a familiar tune played by previous governments to hoodwink us into paying more for what never came to reality. Were we not told that the Petroleum tax, Value Added Tax, and several other taxes and levies were meant to create jobs? Today, there are no evidences that these taxes created any significant job. The public is continuously inundated with stories about how public funds were diverted to private uses; funds contributed mainly by workers and the poor with the rich swimming in flamboyant wealth that are never taxed.
The issue of job creation and re-industrialisation of our country has been subjected to several policy summersaults, contradictions and abandonment such that it leaves an impression that public policies, especially those targeted at developing public infrastructures that would benefit the society, are ultimately designed to serve the interests of a few. We can’t continue this way.
Government does not need new tax regimes, what is needed is a full, all-encompassing policy overhaul that will harmonise policies and institutional frameworks focused on industrialisation and job creation and not further imposition of taxes that ultimately deepens mass poverty.
Government must revisit all prevailing taxes and levies with a clear intention to block leakages, take proper account and direct the resources to their original purposes.
The youths and the teaming unemployed must refuse to be deceived by government or its agents, especially Ministers who still believe policies must be imposed on our people despite popular rejection as the Minister of Communications seem to be doing. We are not under military dictatorship when policies were imposed on our people disdainfully without taking any considerations for public views and interests. Organising youth support rallies to force the proposed Communications Tax on us is primitive and inimical to democratic tenets.
The youths and the unemployed must refuse to be used any further against their future. They should recall that all previous policies designed with similar intentions only ended up serving interests other than theirs and insist that all such previous policies must be implemented scrupulously without further extorting more money from the poor.
On our part, we reject the Communications Tax in its totality and assure of our readiness to mobilise Nigerian workers and their allies against the proposal.
Telecommunication should not be treated as a luxury as it is a necessity everywhere in the world. Apart from further impoverishing our people, the proposed tax will reduce the number of people with access to telecommunications services to the detriment of our society.
It is not too late for the government to withdraw this proposal in the interest of the Nigerian people a statement issued by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said.