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FG Removes Excise Duty for Telecoms Services

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Federal Government has announced the removal of excise duty for telecom sub-sector of Nigeria’s Digital Economy Industry in line with the recommendations of the Committee it constituted to review the applicability of the Duty to the telecom sector which is considered already overburdened with taxation and sundry levies.

L-R: Jacqueline Olowolayemo, Senior Administrative Manager, Mafab Communications Ltd.; Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy; Dr. Vincent Olatunji, National Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Data Protection Bureau and Anas Galadima, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, MTN Nigeria, during a press briefing by the Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector in Abuja on Tuesday (March 21, 2023).

Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, disclosed this on Tuesday at a press briefing organised to provide updates on the status of the 5 per cent excise duty, whose applicability to the telecom sector was objected by the Minister in August 2022, following which President Muhammadu Buhari suspended its application to the telecom sector and set up a Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector.

Pantami, who is the Chairman of the Committee, specifically set up for the purpose of reviewing the proposed excise duty in the telecom sector, said the Committee had carried out its national assignment and accordingly submitted its report to the President, justifying why the sector should be exempted.

The Minister said the Committee’s submissions can be summed up in three arguments put forward to justify why additional burden in form of taxes or any level should not be imposed on the telecom sector to prevent a reversal of the important contribution the sector is making to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Our justifications are based on three premises: First, is the fact that operators in the telecoms sub-sector of the digital economy industry currently pay no fewer than 41 different categories of taxes, levies and charges; secondly, that telecoms has continued to be a major contributor to Nigerian economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product Contribution (GDP).

“The third ground for contesting the Excise Duty in telecom sector is the fact that, despite increase in the cost of all factors of production across sector, and naturally leading to increase in costs of products and services, telecom sector is the only sector where cost of service has been stable and in many cases continued to go down over the past years and therefore, adding more burden will destroy the sector,” the Minister said.

The Minister also informed the gathering that the President, having looked into the arguments put forward by the Committee and relying on the provision of the Section 5 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, has therefore, exempted telecom sector from the list of sectors to pay the excise duty as stated in Finance Act of 2021 and other subsidiary legislations, all of which are not as superior as the Constitution which permits the President to grant such waiver.

Pantami said: “I am happy to report to you that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the exemption of the digital economy sector from the five percent excise duty to be paid and this is because of the strength of the argument presented to him by the Committee that additional burden on telecom sector will increase the sufferings of Nigerians and that other sectors that are not making as much contribution to the economy should be challenged to do more and pay the 5 per cent excise duty.”

The Minister assured Nigerians, who are telecom consumers, that the presidential exemption given to the telecom sector shall be sustained by the incoming administration as “the decision by the President is not about any political party or any administration but about Nigeria and welfare of Nigerian citizens.”

The Minister further noted that the Digital Economy Sector has continued to contribute significantly to the growth of the Nigerian economy, having contributed 14.07 per cent to the GDP in the first quarter of 2020; 17.79 per cent in the second quarter of 2021; and 18.44 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

He said the sector has also increased its quarterly revenue generation for government from N51 billion to over N480 billion, representing a growth of 594 per cent; while the cost of buying data has also reduced from N1,200 in 2019 to N350 presently, despite the increase in the cost of operations, including the energy challenge that has caused mobile network operators to power base stations with over 32,000 power generating to provide seamless services to their teeming consumers.


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NITDA, FCT-UBEB, Collaborate To Foster Digital Literacy In Schools

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In a significant development in Nigeria’s educational sector aimed at boosting digital literacy among school children, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), is set to collaborate with the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Educational Board (FCT-UBEB) towards revolutionising the way young Nigerians engage with technology and equipping them with necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

NITDA

The forgoing information is contained in a press statement e-signed by the Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations at NITDA, Hajia Hadiza Umar.

As per the statement, the Director-General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi , made this known when he hosted a delegation from the Head-to-Head Debate Committee of FCT UBEB led by its Ag. Executive Chairman, Dr Alhassan Sule, at the Agency’s corporate headquarters in Abuja to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

Mallam Abdullahi , who was represented by the agency’s Director of the Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions (ITIS) department, Oladejo Olawumi, stated that the collaboration aligned with a pillar of NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2.0) 2024-2027 which was to Foster Digital Literacy and Cultivate Talents.

While stating that the pillar was key to the proposed educational board’s debate competition, the NITDA DG emphasised the importance of integrating technology into education to capture the interest and potential of young people.

“Children today, often referred to as digital natives, intuitively use technology and unlike us, who are digital migrants, these children seamlessly adapt to new gadgets and platforms. Therefore, it is essential to embed digital knowledge in their learning environment,” he noted.

Abdullahi disclosed that the agency had been providing infrastructure and resources to facilitate educational transformation as well as digital learning centres across all states of the country.

He added that the Digital Literacy for All programme was a national initiative of the agency which was designed to extend digital education resources to all corners of the country and urged the visitors to key into the programme while he asserted that it would be instrumental in enhancing digital literacy skills among students and out-of-school children alike.

Highlighting the agency’s focus on emerging technologies, Abdullahi stated that extensive research and development were being conducted in areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics which were pivotal for future skill sets.

While referring to a recent collaboration between the agency and the Abuja Enterprise Agency on a Robotics competition organised for secondary schools in Abuja to spur interest in Robotics and technology among students, he said “I think we can work together in this area and make sure that Robotics interest is geared up among the youth.”

Elaborating on the Agency’s ongoing initiatives toward achieving 70 per cent digital literacy in the country by 2027, he further disclosed that the agency was working to integrate digital literacy into the national educational curriculum and providing hands-on experience with technologies like AI and Robotics.

While stressing the importance of addressing the needs of out-of-school children, he mentioned “We are developing programmes in partnership with various stakeholders to attract these children through incentives like school feeding, coupled with digital literacy and other educational training.”

Abdullahi noted that the multifaceted approach would ensure that children were not only fed but also equipped with essential digital skills that would pave the way for a more inclusive and technologically proficient future.

In his earlier remark, Dr Sule commended the agency for their various strategic initiatives to ensure a sustainable digitally transformed economy in the country.

While stating that the head-to-head committee was saddled with the responsibility of conducting the FCT Basic Schools debate competition, he noted that 900 students in the FCT would contest in a debate.

Sule said that finalists from the competition would be moved to a reality house which will be aired live on different media platforms where they would be trained on AI and Robotics.


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Group Seeks Restructuring of N15Bn USPF

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Association of Telecommunications, Information Technology, Cable Satellite Network Operators and Allied Services Employers of Nigeria (ATICEN) has again called on Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Information and Digital Economy,  and Aminu Maida, executive vicecChairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to make the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) work for the purpose it was created and be more accountable about the rural telephony projects.

Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Information and Digital Economy

According to the Association, the Fund should be restructured or scrapped if it continues to fail to achieve the purpose for which it was created. It noted that despite the Fund, the digital gap was still wider in the rural areas.

In December last year, the USPF committee led by the Minister unveiled a project on rural telephony powered by solar – one of the many initiatives that USPF aimed at expanding the communication network to rural areas across the country.

It would be recalled that stakeholders in the telecoms industry had called for the investigation of the Fund allegedly misappropriated. The USPF was established in 2003 with an initial N15 billion to promote the widespread availability and usage of network and application services throughout Nigeria.

The NCC charges telecom operators 2.5 per cent of their turn-over as licensing fees, of which 40 per cent of the licensing fees is transferred to the designated fund called USPF.

However, despite the Fund, a wider digital divide still exists in the rural areas as many rural communities in the country are yet to be adequately connected to the country’s telecommunication system.

This lapse has been attributed to the misappropriation of funds partly budgeted for that project by some officials who held sway in the sector in the recent past. Sensing the mismanagement of the fund, some players in the sector called on the Presidency and the National Assembly to investigate the utilisation of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) earmarked to bridge the infrastructure gap in the rural area.

They made the call following the non-impact of the Fund established by the Federal Government to facilitate the achievement of national policy goals for universal access and universal service to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural, unserved, and underserved areas in Nigeria.

The Fund is being managed to facilitate the widest possible access to affordable telecommunications services for greater social equity and inclusion for the people of Nigeria.

It would be recalled that a sum of N15.174 billion was recommended for approval as the Universal Service Provision Fund’s 2019 budget. Since it was established, the industry players said it had never had any impact on the telecoms industry, claiming that the fund had not been used for the purpose it was established.


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MTN Rallies MSMEs on Social Media Challenge to Promote creativity and innovation

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As the 2024 World MSME Day approaches, leading ICT company, MTN Nigeria has announced a social media challenge for MSMEs.

MTN

This challenge aims to encourage creativity and innovation in the way these businesses operate.

World MSME Day is an annual event that recognizes the vital contributions of the Micro, Small, and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) to the achievement of the nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to a report by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), MSMEs significantly contribute to Nigeria’s SDGs accounting for about 43% of the country’s GDP and 84% of employment.

To commemorate the World MSME Day celebration, MTN Nigeria has tasked MSME entrepreneurs who are active on social media to participate in a challenge.

The challenge requires business owners to upload a video showcasing their creative use of any one of the MTN’s business solution tools with the hashtag #MTNMSMEChallenge.

The winning business will be rewarded with free radio publicity, while four other business owners will receive exciting prizes. The challenge will run till June 27, 2024, on all social media platforms.

This initiative reflects MTN Nigeria’s ongoing commitment to supporting small and medium businesses in Nigeria. The company provides these enterprises with the right tools to perform competitively in the market and enhance the quality of their services.

Some of the business tools available for the MSMEs to utilise in the challenge include:

  • Meetings+: Powered by Zoom, is a video conferencing platform that integrates video, voice, and chat features and offers daily, monthly and yearly subscription plans – with current discounts of up to 55%
  • EyeSyte – A Wi-Fi/4G enabled smart device designed to provide real-time, 24/7 security for businesses, environments, assets, and homes. The devices will be discounted at 5% during the World MSME week
  • ESET from MTN:  A high-quality cybersecurity solution that protects valuable data and devices from cyber threats without slowing down work.

By encouraging the creative use of these tools, the company aims to empower MSMEs to thrive in the Nigerian market, ultimately contributing to the nation’s economic development.


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