Telecom operators groan under multiple environmental taxation

Operators in the telecommunications sector under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, have cried out over what they termed multiple environmental taxes imposed on them by federal and state ministries of environment.

Investigations by National Daily shows that operators have been receiving demand notices on Environmental Impact Assessment from ministries of environment in various states after paying to the Federal Ministry of Environment through National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.

“We have received complaints from our members that they have been receiving demand notices for Environmental Impact Assessment payment from some state ministries of environment, which we considered as an aberration of the existing law,” ALTON Chairman, Mr Gbenga Adebayo said in a clarification letter sent to the Federal Ministry of Environment.

The letter also sought to know if the ministry had ceded the task of issuing EIA certification to some state ministries of environment and if state ministries of environment could conduct EIA process to network operators without recourse to the Federal Ministry of Environment and NESREA.

The letter also sought to clarify if “the statutory responsibility on environmental issues of the Federal Ministry of Environment has been transferred to the states.

“That the states now have the power to collect ecological fund from private sector after payment has been made to them by the Federal Government. We kindly request from the Federal Ministry of Environment to clarify these positions, so to guide us in our dealing with the situation and to advise our members accordingly.”

ALTON’s Executive Secretary, Mr Gbolahan Awonuga, in his own submission claimed that the telecoms industry was being over burdened with taxes and levies, saying operators might be forced to call for the review of the tariffs.

Awonuga also called on the Federal Government to examine the Tax and Levy Amended Order 2015 that was signed by a former Minister of Finance in the last administration, Mrs Ngozi Okonji-Iweala.

“This order has created a lot of confusion in the taxes and levies regime and making the environment harsh for business, not minding the government Ease of Doing Business programme. The issues of EIA demand notices by some states has led to sealing of many telecommunications sites thereby causing issues of quality of service, which many times are beyond the control of the operators.

“We plead with the Federal Government to declare telecommunications infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure as stated in the Cybercrime Act 2015 forbidding any state or agency from tampering with any telecoms infrastructure”, Awonuga said.