Editor’s note: The economic situation in Nigeria has affected Nigerians at the lowest rung of ladder but it seems solution is still far away.
In this opinion by Naij.com’s columnist, Buchi Obichie, she points out instances where the government seems focused on overburdening he masses rather than alleviating their problem.
The problem with power
There is something about power, position and authority, which seems to detach those who wield them, from the plight of others. It is quite ironic, but a situation all too familiar- especially in Nigeria- that those who are supposed to serve, by virtue of their high positions in the nation, end up inflicting more hardship on the populace. This is the story of the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele.
At an Annual Bankers Dinner in Lagos, the CBN Governor stated that one of the ways to raise additional revenue and get Nigeria back on track, is for the government to tax every call above three minutes. In his words, “I think we can consider introducing a negligible telecomm surcharge to be entirely borne by the initiator of a call. In order to protect the poor and vulnerable amongst us, we would structure it to only take effect after the third minute of talk.” There has also been talk about increasing data charges on the orders of the NCC, to take effect from December 1. From then onwards, subscribers may start paying as much as 3000naira for data previously purchased for 1000naira/month. The NCC’s orders are reportedly coming on the heels of the proposition by Mr. Emefiele, for a tax on mobile users in Nigeria, in order to supposedly ‘tackle the recession’. Now, I may not be well versed in decoding economic lingua, but I know bad policies when I’m confronted with such, and these are prime examples!
Since the inception of the Buhari administration, Godwin Emefiele has constantly offered bad suggestions and spearheaded bad policies, which seem to have worsened Nigeria’s economic situation, and made life more difficult for the average Nigerian. He spearheaded the devaluation of the naira in order to ‘liberalize the Forex market’, which led to the continuous free-fall of the Nigerian currency; and he also increased interest rates from 12 to 14%. The really annoying part is that for all his actions, he claims he is acting in the best interest of Nigerians! How? Now he wants to tax calls after the three minute mark, and get us to pay exorbitant fees for our browsing data- when Nigeria as a nation should be thinking about free WIFI! What the heck is the CBN Governor thinking? It is hard enough that ATM withdrawals and cash transfers are taxed; now he wants to tax our calls and data subscription further! And then, he had the nerve to make it make it seem like he was looking out for the poor, with a very insensitive comment- “I do not know many poor people who make calls for more than 3 minutes!” Well, Mr. Emefiele, I doubt that you have spoken one-on-one with any poor person, since you became Governor of the apex bank! I doubt that you have even spoken one-on-one with Nigerians on the lower levels of the middle class! In what universe do low-income earners only make calls below the three-minute mark? What of when there’s a serious problem to communicate about? And then, what of students who rely on their mobile internet connectivity to aid with their school work? Their parents can barely afford to pay ever-increasing fees, not to now talk about forking out more money for monthly data connection! But obviously, Mr. Emefiele could care less about them!
Nigerians pay the price
It is appalling that ordinary Nigerians seem to pay the highest price for the sheer incompetence of Nigeria’s leaders. Was it not the same Emefiele, whose “disastrous handling and release of the Dasuki-gate funds which translated to 15% of the nation’s foreign reserves”- in the words of Dino Melaye- partly put us in this current economic mess? The telecomm companies are already making stupendous profit from Nigerians- even in this recession- and now; he would also be putting more money into their pockets as well! Then MTN would ship these huge sums off to South Africa while we suffer back home! Can someone please explain to me why Mr. Emefiele is still CBN Governor?
To be fair, he sought to balance out the proposed call tax with other suggestions such as property taxes and implementation of the 2003 Cabotage Act, which stipulates that all cargoes and passengers in the inland and coastal waters be transported by ships and ferries built, owned, crewed and manned by Nigerians. Now, while the enforcement of the Cabotage Act does make sense; as it would prevent foreigners (who own over 500 of the roughly 600 ships operating within Nigeria’s waters at the moment) from continually taking much needed cash abroad, I’m still in a bit of limbo, about the property tax. I know that Lagos landlords are already charged a yearly Land Use Act fee, based on the value of their properties; so I can’t understand why they should be taxed in addition to this- except maybe he’s talking about replicating the Lagos model, nationwide.
Godwin Emefiele seems to be uncertain about which economic policies would steer Nigeria out of the present quagmire it finds itself. Like Kemi Adeosun and Udo Udoma, he seems to be playing a dangerous game of ‘trial and error’ with the Nigerian economic sector; and that’s why it seems like he gives an upbeat report one minute, and then comes up with something gloomy and utterly ridiculous the next! Just in September, he told us that the worst has passed. In his own words, “I repeat, the worst is over. Nigeria’s economy is on the path of recovery and growth.” But now, the economy is so bad that it needs to be salvaged by call taxes and increased data tariffs. One only wonders what he would come up with tomorrow– SMS taxes? Would we be charged 10naira per SMS soon?
I am not an economist, so I may not be able to proffer hard-core economic solutions; but I am a Nigerian, who is mightily affected by the poor policies of men like Emefiele- men whose actions are largely to be blamed for this current predicament of ours! There is no justification whatsoever for placing more burdens on the shoulders of suffering Nigerians- especially when there are no ‘palliatives’ to soften the ‘constant blows’. If being the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is a task that Emefiele cannot effectively execute, the honorable thing for him to do is simply resign!
Buchi Obichie is a writer, analyst and poet who blogs frequently at 1812global.blogspot.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.
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