The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has condemned the Federal Government’s proposed imposition of Communication Service Tax (CST) as recently mooted by the Minister of Communication, Mr Adebayo Shittu.
The congress urged the National Assembly not to pass the bill into law, saying that the bill, if passed into law means that nine per cent tax would be charged on all phone calls, SMS, MMS, data package, etc.
“If we sufficiently understand the minister, we wonder how he expects such tax to be paid by any worker in a country where the national minimum wage is N18,000 and at a time when workers’ take-home pay no longer takes them home. Apart from exploiting the already impoverished masses, the policy would also discourage investment and lead to loss of jobs,” the TUC said in a statement signed by its President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama and the Acting Secretary General, Comrade Simeso Amachree.
The Congress faulted the minister’s claim that the country would earn as much as N20 billion monthly in consequence of passage of the proposed bill, and that it would help cushion some of the country’s economic challenges and fund budget deficits.
The statement read: “While we appreciate the minister’s concern on how to fund the budget, should the government’s focus not rather be on ensuring more judicious use of revenue derived from value added tax (VAT), Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), stamp duties, vehicle license, passport fees, customs duty, petroleum profit tax (PPT) and other taxes collected from the masses and companies? And would it not be more appropriate for the desired additional taxes to be imposed on the GSM operators and other players in the communications industry rather than the poor masses?
“One wonders why the common people should always be at the receiving end. The Congress and the generality of Nigerians know that most government officers rarely pay for anything, including their children’s school fees and utility bills. The cost is on us the masses.
“And now yet another burden is in the offing! The fact that the country is in economic straits and needs to generate more revenue does not mean that satanic laws that adversely affect disposable income and gross domestic product (GDP) should be promulgated.
“Information reaching us has it that there was a stakeholders meeting that excluded members of organised labour and the poor people who are expected to make these payments because we do not count.
“It is unfortunate that the minister is evidently only interested in monetary gains from the communications sector to the detriment of the welfare of Nigerians. If various tiers of government aim to increase their revenues they must start by looking inward to the vast deposits of natural resources within their respective jurisdictions.
“We call on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to suspend the bill immediately because the masses are already overburdened with multiple taxation. It makes no sense for the country to initiate policies that would stifle businesses when it seeks to woe and attract even more investors. That bill must not be passed. The Federal Government should stop rubbing salt on the masses’ injury.”