The Nigerian government is set to impose a new tax on phone calls in the country as part of moves to meet the needs of Nigerian citizens considered to be most vulnerable to health challenges.
This comes despite moves by telecommunication companies to increase the cost of their services as a result of harsh economic realities.
The telecom tax is the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls to boost the funds required to finance free healthcare for the vulnerable group in Nigeria.
The information was contained in the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari recently.
The act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that the source of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.
The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said, “S.26 of this new law imposes a telecommunications tax of not less than 1kobo per second on GSM calls. With call rates at about 11kobo per second, this translates to a 9 per cent tax on GSM calls.
“The tax is one of the sources of money to the Vulnerable Group Fund to subsidise the provision of healthcare to the group defined to include children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.”
According to the act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.
For funding, the act provides several options such as basic health care provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.
It also stipulates that money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the Government; mostly that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.
Also in the new act, every citizen in Nigeria is expected to obtain a health insurance policy.