Reps to investigate Telcos for shortchanging fed govt

The House of Representatives is to investigate telecommunications service providers (telcos) for fleecing the Federal Government of massive revenue through some unethical activities.

House Committee on Communications has been mandated to carry out a comprehensive investigation of activities of telcos, which lead to massive revenue by Federal Government.

The committee has four weeks to carry out the probe and report back to the House.

The resolution of the House followed the adoption of a motion by Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP, Kogi), who regretted the massive revenue loss caused by serial under-payments by the telecommunications service providers.

In his argument, Yusuf observed that over the years, Nigeria lost revenue from telecommunications service providers who consistently took advantage of certain regulatory loopholes to underpay the Federal Government.

According to him, despite its size, population and traffic of international calls, revenues to the Federal Government is low compared with countries as Ghana which generated about $143m between June 2010 and June 2012.

He said: “Considering the volume, values and traffic on each of those telecommunications service providers, the revenues generated by Nigeria through operating levy as well as income tax on profit paid by the firms have been grossly inadequate.

“It is however worrisome that the Federal Government receives only revenues based on what is declared by the telecom operators through their self-assessment and self-declaration mechanisms that are usually skewed in their favour.

“It is equally disturbing that the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) does not carry out appropriate verification of the volume of transactions done by these telecoms providers.

“It is alarming that sometime in April 2015, without NCC’s approval, the telecom service providers unilaterally increased the termination fee for inbound international traffic into their networks to N10 per minute from N3. 90k, which led to increased revenues for these firms without corresponding increase in revenues accruable to the Federal Government.

“Unlike some neighbouring countries, Nigeria does not have a well-structured platform to duely verify the transactions and declarations made by these telecom service providers with a view to correcting the anomalies in revenues remitted to the Federal Government.

“We should be concerned that due to the absence of an effective and efficient monitoring mechanism, Nigeria has lost humongous revenues because the huge traffic brought in at higher termination fee is usually credited as local calls and the service providers pay the Federal Government same rate as the rates from local calls.

“Also, it should be of  concern that the service providers take advantage of the non-uniformity of data computed by NCC and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in terms of inbound termination calls into Nigeria by paying the Federal Government whatever suits them, thus shortchanging Nigeria of the appropriate revenues accruable to it.”

The motion was unanimously adopted when it was put to a voice vote.