By Emma Okonji
Telecommunication companies (Telcos) have expressed concerns over recent move by various states ministry of environment to impose environmental impact assessment (EIA) levy on their operations across the country.
They described the development as another form of multiple taxation that would impede the growth of the sector.
To this end, the operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), have written to the Federal Ministry of Environment, explaining the economic implication of allowing States’
Ministry of Environment to collect environmental impact assessment levy directly from the operators across the country, after they have paid same levy to the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).
The operators want the Federal Ministry of Environment to review the existing telecoms tariff in order to address every anomaly with telecoms tariff and taxes.
According to the operators, they obtained EIA from the Federal Ministry of Environment through NESREA in collaboration with each state ministry of environment, but wondered why the states are now coming up with fresh demands for EIA levy, which they said, amounted to multiple taxation and charges.
“We have received complaints from our members that they have been receiving demand notices for environmental impact assessment payment from some states government ministries of environment, which we considered as an aberration of the existing law,” ALTON said in the letter, which was signed by its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo.
The letter dated February 21, 2019, sought clarification on issues such as: “That the Federal Ministry of Environment has ceded the EIA oversight functions to some states ministry of environment to issue EIA certification to its members and that some states ministry of environment as the case may be can conduct EIA process in its members without recourse to the Federal Ministry of Environment and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).”
Others include: “That the statutory responsibility on environmental issues of the Federal Ministry of Environment has been transferred to the states government; That the states now have power to collect ecological fund from private sector after payment has been made to them by the federal government.”
In the letter, Adebayo requested from the Federal Ministry of Environment to clarify these positions, so as to guide ALTON in its dealing with the situation and to advise its members accordingly.
Adebayo also called on the federal government to look into the issue of Tax and Levy Amended Order 2015, which he said, was hurriedly signed by the former Minister of Finance in the last administration, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The signed order according to him, had created confusion in the taxes and levies regime and making the telecoms environment hash for business, not minding the federal government policy on ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in Nigeria.
Adebayo, had said since the order was signed in 2015, it has created a lot of confusion in the taxes and levies regime and made the telecoms environment hash for business, not minding the federal government executive order on ‘Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.’
According to him, “The telecommunications industry has been the best customer centric sector, where issue pertaining to subscribers are taken very seriously by both the operators and the regulator, and despite all challenges there has not for once been an outage compare to other sectors, where you are put on estimated bills and inconsistence in flight schedules that have made several people missed appointments and valued meetings just to mention few.
“There was no face-off between NCAA and ALTON and its members. Although we need clarification on the charges, this led to the agreement at the meeting to form an advisory committee which comprises NCAA and ALTON representatives. Our members are responsible corporate citizens of the country and natural partners in progress that follow due processes.”