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FG Set to Implement Data, Calls Tariff Hike- Minister 

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja 

The Federal Government has stated that it was set to implement the new tariff hike of five percent on calls and data.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed  confirmed the development at a stakeholders’ meeting, organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Abuja on Thursday. 

The Minister who was represented by the Assistant Director, Tax Policy, in the Ministry, Musa Umar, noted: “The five percent excise duty has been in the Finance Act 2020, but has never been implemented”.

 

 She said government would begin the implementation of five percent excise duty tax on all voice calls, SMS and data services, in addition to the existing 7.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT), paid for goods and services across all sectors of the economy.

“Henceforth, the five percent excise duty will be collected by telecom operators and payment made to the federal government on a monthly basis, on or before 21st of every month.”

Concerning the five percent hike, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami had disclosed that there was a circular stating the planned hike which was addressed to his ministry and other relevant ministries and agencies of government.

The circular Referenced No. F. 17417/VI/286 dated 1st March 2022, and titled “Approval for Implementation of the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures and Tariff Amendments” was addressed to different Ministers, including Honourable Minister, Communications and Digital Economy and other heads of government agencies.

The circular was also addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Attorney-General of The Federation, Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Mines and Steel and Development; among others.

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The circular signed by Mrs. Ahmed reads: “A grace of ninety (90) days commencing from the date of implementation of this circular i.e April 1, 2022, shall be granted to all importers who had opened Form M and must have entered into irrevocable trade agreement before the coming into effect of this circular to process and clear these goods at the prevailing duty rates.

“However new import transaction entered from the 1st of April 2022 will be subjected to the new import duty regime,” she said.

Recall that the Finance Act, 2020 introduced ‘Telecommunication Services’ provided in Nigeria to be liable to excise duty under Section 21 (2) of the Customs and excise tariff etc. (Consolidation) Act, CAP. C49, LFN 2004. 

A statement by the Minister’s SpecialAdviser on Media and Communications,  YunusaTanko Abdullahi noted that this development, “therefore, means that all stakeholders have by that singular provision been aware of the Act”. 

He said, “The excise duty on telecommunication services provided in Nigeria introduced through the Finance Act, 2020 with statutory enactment on 1st January, 2021 is yet to be implemented till date. 

“This is considering the need to ensure reasonable transition period before the implementation of the new tax, as well as providing clarity to all stakeholders on implementation modalities. 

“As a matter of emphasis, Mrs. Ahmed had vide Circular dated 1st March, 2022 informed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other heads of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including the Federal Ministry of Communication & Digital Economy about Mr. President’s approval of the implementation of the five percent excise duty on telecommunication services with effect from 1st June, 2022. 

“The circular provided a 90-day moratorium with effect from 1st March, 2022 before the implementation of the excise tax. Currently, the excise tax is yet to be implemented. 

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“An issue as serious as the excise tariff cannot be taken single handedly, as all stakeholders and agencies have been involved including Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Association of Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), who wrote to the Ministry to be involved in the modalities for implementation of the excise duty.”

It could be recalled that Prof. Pantami rejected the planned implementation of five percent excise duty in the Nigerian telecoms sector.

He expressed his disapproval for the policy at a telecom forum in Lagos, organised by the Nigeria Office for Developing the Indigenous Telecoms Sector (NODITS), an agency domiciled in the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC).

He said that he would explore every legitimate means to stop the planned five percent excise duty tax on telecom consumers, faulting the timing and process of imposing the tax on the telecom industry, insisting that part of the responsibility of a responsive government was not to increase the challenges citizens were facing.

“I have not been contacted officially. If we are, we surely will state our case. The sector that contributes to the economy should be encouraged. You introduce excise duty to discourage luxury goods like alcohol, but broadband in the telecom sector is a necessity,” he said further. 

Continuing,  the Finance Minister’s spokesman said, “zIn view of the above position of Prof. Pantami, there could be the question whether he was absented in the whole processes that resulted in the Finance Act, which is a product of both the National Assembly and Federal Executive Council (FEC).

“Suffice this to say that before the Act, the Finance Bill would have been through the FEC of which Prof. Pantami is a member and the National Assembly. In other words, he was involved in the making of the Finance Act which spells the said excise tariff hike policy. 

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“Therefore, he could not obviously have had a point in his dissenting views even as the National Assembly could not have contradicted itself on this matter, because the parliament had passed the Finance Bill before President Muhammadu Buhari signed it into law. 

“Although Nigeria is celebrated as the largest economy in Africa, translating this wealth into revenues remains a challenge. Considering this in line with the provision of the revised National Tax Policy which provides the framework for a sustainable tax system that would ensure reliable sources of revenue to government and support economic development.

“Subsequently, in line with the Finance Act, the federal government introduced “Telecommunication Services” provided in Nigeria to be liable to excise duty under Section 21 (2) of the Customs and Excise Tariff etc. (Consolidation) Act, CAP. C49, LFN 2004.

“Nigeria is one of the largest telecommunication markets in Africa. Available report from the NCC shows four categories of operators, i.e. mobile (GSM), fixed telephony operators (fixed/ fixed wireless), internet service providers (ISPS) and others (operators other than mobile & fixed telephony, ISPs). 

“Subscriber number continues to grow substantially, having increased from about 180 million subscribers in 2019 to over 200 million active subscriptions in 2020. This represents an increase of over nearly 11 percent in total subscriptions. Moreover, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Burundi currently imposed excise duty on telecommunication services ranging between five percent to 20 percent”.

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2023: INEC Rolls out Guidelines for Campaigns

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By Jude Opara, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has cautioned political parties against abusive language and acts likely to provoke violence or emotions in their campaigns for 2023 general election.


The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu stated at the opening of a two-day capacity workshop for members of INEC Press Corps on critical issues in the Electoral Act, 2022 in preparations for the 2023 General Election in Lagos on Monday.


Mahmood, represented by Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education Committee, urged all registered political parties to critically study and pay attention to the provisions of laws for proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.


The laws according to Mahmood included the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Police Act and the Public Order Act.


“A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
“Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns,” Yakubu said.


Regarding activities toward 2023 general election, Yakubu said that eight out of the 14 items on INEC calendar and schedule of activities including the release of the final list of candidates nominated for national election have been implemented.

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He said that on October 4, INEC would release the final list of candidates nominated in relation to state elections.
“On September 28 presidential and National Assembly campaigns will start, while that of governorship and State Assembly candidates will start on October 12.
“The commission will continue to adhere to set timelines in carrying out its activities,” he said.
Yakubu said that INEC has devoted time and energy to the cleaning up of the voter register using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).


“This process is almost finalised and the commission will engage with stakeholders relating to its findings before displaying the register for claims and objections as required by law.
“Furthermore, the commission is working out a protocol for seamless collection of Permanent Voters Cards by valid registrants, ” he said.


Yakubu assured that INEC would deploy and continue to deploy appropriate technology for conduct of elections.
“The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IreV) will be deployed for the conduct of the 2023 general election.


“We will continue to use technology to improve and enhance the credibility of elections in Nigeria.
“Our goal is electoral justice where every Nigerian will experience electoral fulfilment,” he said.
Yakubu described the workshop as timely as preparations for the 2023 general election have reached advantage stage with only 152 days away.
He said that it was important for the media especially the INEC Press Corp to have a good knowledge and understanding of the workings and operations of the commission.
He said that was necessary for an informed and balanced coverage of the commission’s activities and the dissemination of information to the general public.

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Mahmood described INEC Press Corp as an indispensable partner in electoral process that provide a veritable platform and pathway for the dissemination of electoral information to the Nigerian public.


“The commission will continue to collaborate with the Press Corp in providing the requisite information that enables them to engage the electoral process and educate citizens to make informed choices,” Yakubu said.


He appreciated the European Union which has through the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EUSDGN) Programme implemented by DAI for consistently supporting the work of the commission.


The Lagos INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC),Mr Olusegun Agbaje, said that the event presented a unique opportunity for participants to be well equipped with adequate knowledge of the processes of INEC, the Electoral Act 2022 and activities towards 2023 general election.
Agbaje advised the media to play its role in ensuring free and fair elections in 2023 by ensuring that the rule of law prevailed.
“As the clock gradually clicks towards the 2023 General Election, the media have a supreme call and duty to: mobilise, sensitis and enlighten the electorate on all electoral processes by educating them on their responsibilities to perform their civic roles to vote for any candidate of their choice in all elective posts.
“Address the issue of voter apathy and poor voter turnout in elections in Nigeria by rallying the electorate to perform their civic responsibilities.
“Educate voters to vote appropriately to avoid incidence of high records of invalid ballots at election; ensure that the game of politics is played in accordance with the enabling laws, rules and guidelines,” he said.
Abgbaje also called for robust engagement with parties and candidates to assist voters to make informed choices at the election; checkmate the current trend of fake news and sensational reportage of events.
“Educate the citizens on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, as well as the rules and regulations guiding the election.
“Collaborate with INEC and other election stakeholders to checkmate vote buying through sensitization, effective monitoring and enforcement of the laws.
“Also give a level playing ground to all parties/candidates by allocating to them equal media time and coverage; help to reduce electoral violence to the bearest minimum,” Agbaje said.

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Nationwide Power Outage as Grid Crashes 7 Times in 2022

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja

The national grid crashed to zero megawatts (MW) at 10:51am on Monday, causing a nationwide power outage. The national grid collapsed twice, in July and in August but was quickly restored and power supply improvement was sustained before the latest system collapse on Monday.
Yesterday’s collapse was the seventh this year.

Three was recorded last year.

The national electricity grid as of 10am on Monday had 3,712MW generated from 21 Generation Companies (GenCos) before it dropped to 0MW one hour after.


According to the information from the System Operations, only a section of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Afam IV, was on the grid but with zero supply as of 12noon, yesterday.
As of Sunday, the highest generation was 4,100MW while the lowest was 3,652MW with the frequency hovering between 49.04 Hertz (Hz) and 50.
34Hz.

Announcing the development, Monday, the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, in a statement via its verified Twitter handle, said, “This is to inform you that the outage you are currently experiencing is due to the system collapse of the national grid, which occurred earlier today at 10:50hrs. This has affected the Transmission Stations within our network and resulted in the loss of power supply to our customers. Kindly bear with us as we await the restoration of the grid.”
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company Plc also announced system collapse, adding that the current blackout being currently experienced had affected the entire South-East.

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The announcement contained in a statement by the power distribution company issued in Enugu on Monday was signed by its Head, Corporate Communications, Mr Emeka Ezeh.

Eze disclosed that the system collapsed at 10:51 am on Monday, September 26, 2022.
He said, “This has resulted in the loss of supply currently being experienced across the network.
“Due to this development, all our interface TCN stations are out of supply, and we are unable to provide service to our customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo States.
“We are on standby awaiting detailed information of the collapse and restoration of supply from the National Control Centre, Osogbo.”
 
Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) also confirmed that the outage within its franchise was due to system failure from the national grid.
 
The company’s management, in a statement issued on Monday, said that the system collapsed at about 10.55 a.m. on Monday.
 
”Please be informed that the current power outage is due to system failure from the national grid.
 
“The system collapsed at about 10.55 a.m. today (Monday), causing the outage being experienced.
 
”We appeal for your understanding, as all stakeholders are working hard to restore normal power supply,” the statement said.

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The development occurred few days after electricity consumers said they had enjoyed improved supply. Since July 1 this year, consumers said power supply had increased in their various areas.
For instance, the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) recently confirmed increment in its daily allocation to over 500MW from the actual 300MW it had distributed before then. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had attributed the improvement in power supply nationwide to the partial activation of contracts that seeks to hold sector operators liable for deliberate incompetence.

Although TCN, the national grid manager did not disclose the cause of the crash, it claimed latter in the night that partial repairs had been effected and normalcy to be expected.

Mrs Ndidi Mbah, TCN’s General Manager, Public Affairs made this known in a statement in Abuja.

Mbah said that the national grid experienced partial system disturbance at about 10.51am, as result of sudden drop in system frequency, which created system instability.

She said that the restoration of the affected grid commenced immediately at 11.55am with Osogbo/Ihovbor, followed by Jebba/Osogbo, Kainji/Jebba, Benin/Onitsha, Shiroro/Kaduna, Shiroro/Katampe and Alaoji/Ikot-Ekpene.

Others are Lokoja/Gwagwalada, Odukpani/Ikot Ekpene, Benin/Omotosho, Oke-Aro/Ikeja west, Egbin/Oke-Aro and Kaduna/Kano.

She said the grid restoration has almost been completed, adding that the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) regrets any inconveniences caused.

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Mbah said NESI appreciated the understanding of electricity customers within and outside the country.

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FCTA Raises Flood Alert over  Lagdo Dam

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja 

The Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, has has warned Abuja residents against ignoring early  flood warnings from the weather forecast agencies.

The Federal Capital Territory Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),Director-General of FEMA, Alhaji Abba Idriss, issued the warning at the 2022 FEMA Annual Review and Preparedness Meeting with over 250 local divers, community vanguards, flood rescue teams and 50 town criers.

In a statement issued by FEMA and made available to journalists in Abuja, he said   the meeting came at a time when flood warnings from the weather forecast agencies, especially Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), are coming almost on a daily basis.

Idriss said the rising water levels in the  Nigeria’s major rivers  especially River Niger and River Benue, couple with the threats coming from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon are issues of great concern.

Idriss emphasised the need for residents to abide and obey the early warning and would be issued out to them from time to time through the conventional and social media.

According to him, as soon as the agency get flood early warning it will disseminate the information so that people will take advantage of that.

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He therefore urged residents to ensure that they get information about the way they will pass through before leaving their homes, offices and markets.

“The reason why we call for this meeting is first to alert our local divers, volunteers, vanguards and town criers on the likelihood of flooding.

“Secondly, is to call on the residents of the Federal Capital Territory to be on their alert as well that all is not well yet. We have to be watchful, we have to keep observing those environmental laws and we also have to abide by the building code.

“FCT residents must also ensure that they don’t block drainages, avoid building on the waterways and also avoid driving on a running water. People shouldn’t undermine water they see on the road to think that they have high capacity vehicle that move on running water.”

Mrs Florence Wenegieme, the Director, Forecasting Response Mitigation of FEMA, explained that the event was organised to review with stakeholders especially the local divers, volunteers, vanguards, local emergency committee and town criers.

Wenegieme expressed optimism that the meeting would help the agency to save lives and properties in the nation’s capital.

“We call them three or four times annually to review all the activities; to reactivate them, to know that they should always be on standby because we want all hands to be on deck to mitigate flood and other disasters in the territory.

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“We have almost 600 volunteers, local divers, town criers. We are doing the meeting by representation, we call over 200 today and next meeting we will call another set of 200 persons again to make sure that we create the needed awareness in them.

“We are training them on how to use use modern rescue equipment when somebody get drown in the river or in the wall,” she said.

Also, the Director-General, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), Mr Clement Nze, reiterated the resolve of the agency to deepen partnership with FEMA in coordinating issues around water and flooding.

“I will say that we are aware of most of the activities of State Emergency Management Agency and out of all of them FEMA is on top in terms of being relevant on community development

“We are delighted to associate ourselves with FEMA based on what we see on ground being done by the DG.

“I want to urge the divers and vanguards, local emergency committee, town criers and flood rescue team to see their role as very important in tackling flood in FCT.”

Similarly, the Director-General, NiMet, Prof. Mansur Matazu, also expressed willingness of the agency to deepen partnership with FEMA, adding that the agency has been very cooperative in emergency management.

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Represented by Mr Kamorudeen Alao, the Assistant General Manager, Hydro, Matazu said the partnership which was beyond the issue of downscaling would continue to grow stronger.

On his part, the Director-General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Mustapha Ahmed, said the meeting was very critical to mitigating flood and other disasters in the FCT.

Represented by Mr Agbor Etim, NEMA’s Principal Search and Rescue Officer, Ahmed said disaster management was all encompassing, adding that everybody need to be on board to help ensure effective disaster management.

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