The Kogi State House of Assembly has stepped down a bill for a law to make provisions for the collection of radio and television licensing rates in the state.
Some critical stakeholders present at the bill’s public hearing held at the Kogi State House of Assembly complex rejected it.
They tagged it anti-people, undemocratic and a contradiction of the provision of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The controversial executive bill indicated that owners or users of devices capable of receiving radio and television broadcast content through satellite broadcast platforms shall pay the sum of N2,400 per annum and N3,600 per annum for private and commercial users respectively.
Part III of the bill further explained that owners or users of devices capable of receiving radio and television broadcast contents from telecommunication platforms shall pay the sum of N1,200 per annum and N2,400 per annum for private and commercial users respectively.
Some parts of the bill read: “Owners or users of devices capable of receiving radio and/or television broadcast content from internet service providing platform owners shall pay the sum of one thousand, two hundred naira (1,200.00) per annum and two thousand, four hundred naira (2,400.00) per annum for (private and commercial users respectively.
“Owners or users of devices capable of receiving radio and/or television broadcast content in a vehicle shall pay the sum of one thousand two hundred naira (1,200.00) per annum.
“Owners or users of devices capable of receiving radio and/or television broadcast content via the digital set-top box shall pay the sum of five hundred naira (N500.00) per annum.
“Payment of the rates by subscribers to Satellite Broadcast Service/Pay TV shall be at the point of subscription or renewal of subscription through any mode of payment available on the Radio and Television Licensing Rates collection platform.
“Payment of the rates by Telecommunication Service Subscribers Shall be by a deduction of one hundred naira (100.00) or two hundred naira (N200.00) monthly for individuals and commercial users respectively from their credit balance or any other mode of Payment available on the Radio and Television Licensing Rates Collection platform.
“The State Government or its representative shall cause to be served or issued a Demand Notice on remittance Agents setting out the details of the amount of money deducted or paid by users or owners of devices capable of receiving radio and/or television broadcast content on their platform.
“The Demand Notice shall be transmitted to the Remittance Agent electronically, by delivery, by pasting, or sending it by registered post to its place of business and such service shall be deemed sufficient delivery of the Notice.”
The bill, however, generated heated debate during the public hearing which was attended by civil society organisations, television and radio owners in Kogi State.
Representatives of the government took their time to explain why the bill should be given an accelerated hearing for it to be passed into law.
While x-raying the submissions of the government on the bill, participants at the public hearing took turns to express their views on the controversial bill.
They said it was the exclusive right of the local government to handle such matters.
Barrister Cosmos Ilemona Atabor, the lawmaker representing Igalamela Odolu constituency who doubles as the Chairman, House Standing Committee on Judiciary, Justice Protocol gave an insight into why the bill was stepped down.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the public hearing, Atabor said: “I don’t know if the bill is draconian or anti-people. What I know is that when the government collects taxes, it is meant to help and develop the people. The issue we have with this particular bill and why we decided to step it down is because of the conflict with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
“We do know that the collection of television licensing and radio rate is an exclusive reserve of the local government. Now, when all of us are aware of that and you come today with an executive bill for the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service to start collecting this fee, it will go against Nigeria Constitution. So, we have decided to frown at it. We do know that the 1999 Constitution has not been amended to allow any other tiers of government to collect these fees apart from the Local Government.”
For the chairperson, Kogi NGO network, Idris Ozovehe Muraina, the bill should be thrown out as it is built on an unconstitutional premise of the transfer of powers from the local government council to the state.
“In the event that a local government council, or indeed all 21 local government councils, seeks to reach an agreement with the state government to aid in its collection of bills, such an agreement should be executive arrangement with clearly stated terms and timeframes.
“It ought not to be a bill to be passed as a law. Passing such an arrangement as the law would require that anytime the local government seeks to change, modify or even end the ‘agreement’ it would be a repealing of a State Law through the State House of Assembly. tantamount to relinquishing their constitutional powers to the government.
“We hereby conclude and recommend that this bill be thrown out as it is built on an unconstitutional premise of the transfer of powers from the local government councils to the state government. This does not fit into the ideals of a democratic society. We, therefore, urge this committee to consider our recommendations and act accordingly,” he added.
Other stakeholders present were of the view that the bill does not fit into the ideals of a democratic society.
This is the second time the bill is coming to the assembly for a public hearing.
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
In spite of the huge investment in the water sector by the government and international organisations, water scarcity has grown to become a perennial nightmare for residents of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. This report x-rays the lives and experiences of residents in getting clean, potable and affordable water amidst the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state.