Glo, Airtel, Etisalat cripple NITDA with billions of naira debt

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel owe the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) billions of naira via default in the payment of mandatory levies from annual profits, Director-General, Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami, has lamented.

He spoke during a session with the ad-hoc committee investigating the activities of telecoms operators and vendors, adding that the debt was part of the National Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEV).

According to the Act establishing NITDA, telcos operating in the country shall pay one per cent of their annual profits as levy for NITDEV.

Pantami told the lawmakers that the only operator that has been consistent in paying the levy is MTN.

According to him, MTN has paid a total of N19 billion since the inception of the fund in 2007, while Globacom paid N1.3 billion only for 2011, 2012 and 2015; Airtel paid N677.7 million for 2007, 2008 and 2015 while declaring losses in other years, However, Etisalat, which began operations in the country in 2008 has consistently claimed losses and refused to pay any anything.

This revelation has prompted the Hon. Ahmed Abu- headed committee to resolve on ensuring the recovery of the said outstanding from the defaulting operators.

However the committee said it would recover all the money being owed by the telcos.

Abu said NITDA data base failed to capture companies such as Ericsson, Alcatel, Siemens and others which are supposed to pay.

Asked if the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) was up and doing in collecting the amount due to NITDA, Pantami said: “Since I came on board, I have been battling with the companies on remittance. Our Act states clearly in Section 16 that FIRS should collect and remit the amount for us through our account at the CBN.

“I also wrote a letter to some of the companies. We wrote to Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco and Oracle. We believe they have been making profits in Nigeria, but they never remitted. Some of them responded to our letters, but others didn’t.

“MTN, as a leading GSM company, has been consistently paying. It contributed N19 billion so far. In 2016, MTN recorded a loss, so they couldn’t pay,” he said.

The lawmakers opined that some service providers may have escaped the payment net for the levy and expressed doubt on if the service providers were actually recording losses as claimed.

Pantami said NITDA was helpless in the absence of relevant information from the FIRS.

 “We only rely on what the companies send to us because we can’t get anything from FIRS. I don’t have any record to verify whether MTN is remitting what it’s supposed to,” he lamented.

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