- Reps move to probe N200bn debt
Chief executive officers of telecommunications companies, banks, and other ICT firms in the country may soon be prosecuted for failing to pay the statutory one per cent contribution to the National Technology Development Fund (NITDEF).
This came as the House of Representatives begins to investigate the non-payment of the due.
The fund, which is targeted at developing technology across the country, has suffered neglect over the years as companies expected to contribute to the fund shunned it.
The value of the default by the companies has been put at over N200 billion.
Section 12 (1) of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) ACT 2007 established the National Information Technology Development Fund while subsection two states that “there shall be paid and credited into the Fund established under subsection (1) of this section: (a) A levy of one percent of the profit before tax of companies and enterprises enumerated in the Third Schedule to this Act with an annual turnover of Third Schedule N 100,000,000 and above and such paid by the companies shall be tax-deductible.”
Companies mandated to pay the levy as stated in the ‘third schedule’ include GSM service providers and all telecommunications companies; Cyber Companies and Internet service providers; it also includes non-IT companies such as pensions managers and pension-related companies; banks and other financial institutions; and insurance companies.
As stipulated by the Act, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is to assess and collect the levy imposed.
The Act also lay down punishment in case of default, stating that “any company, agency or organisation that fails within two months after a demand note, to pay the levy or the import duty imposed under section 11 of this Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than N 1,000,000.00 and the chief executive Officer of the company, agency or organisation shall be liable to be prosecuted and punished for the offence in like manner as if he had himself committed the offence, unless he proves that the act or omission constituting the offence took place without his knowledge, consent or connivance.”
Worried by non-remittance of the due, which has lasted for years without any prosecution, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT), Hon. Lado Abdullahi, said recently that lawmakers might involve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the issue.
Abdullahi, while speaking with journalists on the efforts of the committee to meet the one-month deadline given to his committee to investigate the matter, said the House would ensure that the chief executive officers of the nation’s telecoms service providers accounted for why they failed to remit “just one per cent of their annual turnover to NITDA for several years since the Act became effective in 2007.”
According to him, the committee is to take off this January and would write all affected companies to furnish the secretariat with vital information about their annual turnover starting from 2007 to date when the NITDA Act was enacted.
“We want to know when last they releaseed their turnover to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) since 2007. And we also need to know whether FIRS truly gets this information from them. FIRS will also provide us with the turnover of each service provider from 2007 to date.
“The Attorney General; the Accountant General; the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will also furnish us with useful information we need to do our job.
“The NITDA act says telecoms providers should remit one per cent of their annual turnover to NITDA, which it would use to install infrastructure. But the majority of them have been defaulting – they have not been paying this money. That’s why the House has asked us to investigate the matter and prosecute the erring providers accordingly. “We are involving the Attorney-General; the Inspector General of Police (IGP); the Department of State Security Service (DSS); and EFCC,” he said.
The House had in December 2019 directed the Abdullahi-led committee to investigate the collection and remittance of one per cent levy on behalf of the National Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEF).
This followed the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Nkem-Abonta on the need to investigate payment and remittances of taxes accruable to NITDF established by the NITDA Act 2007.