Saturday, September 25, 2021

INTERVIEW: Multiple taxations hindering ICT investments in Nigeria – Kazaure

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Ibrahim Ramalan
Ibrahim Ramalan is a graduate of Mass Communications from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. With nearly a decade-long, active journalism practice, Mr Ramalan has been able to rise from a cub reporter to the exalted position of an editor; first as Arts Editor with the Blueprint Newspapers before resigning in 2019; second and presently as an Associate Editor of the Daily Nigerian online newspaper. He can be reached via [email protected], or www.facebook.com/ibrahim.ramalana, or @McRamalan on Twitter.
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Yusuf Kazaure is the Managing Director of the Galaxy Backbone, a Nigerian government agency which provides Information Communication Technology, ICT, infrastructure and services. In this interview with DAILY NIGERIAN, Mr Kazaura speaks on ICT development in Nigeria and his agency’s participation in the recently concluded 2019 Golf Information Technology Exhibition, GITEX, week which took place in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, UAE.

What does the Galaxy Backbone do?
Galaxy Backbone is an ICT company focused on providing ICT infrastructure and services. We have data centres, fibreoptic networks. We are probably the largest fibreoptic network provider in Abuja. We also have a backbone that links Abuja to Lagos and Port Harcourt. We have a 3tier data centre where we host lots of applications, especially for government, departments, ministries and agencies. We support ministries, departments and agencies to be able to utilize their process and operations.

What’s your take on this year’s GITEX as far as Nigeria is concerned?
The 39th GITEX has its scale rising because I’ve had the opportunity of visiting other GITEX events. This is by far one of the biggest, compared to the ones we attended before. Nigeria’s presence can also be explained as fantastic. The turnout was also fantastic, looking at the interest we had especially at our own stand within the Nigerian pavilion. When I looked at the list of visitors that came, both for the interest of our own company directly and Nigeria, to find out how they could impact in Nigeria, it shows that GITEX was a good idea itself. I commend the communication minister for being here personally to be at the Nigerian Investment Forum as well as NITDA for having such a beautiful showing.

How do you think Nigeria is pairing in the ICT world?
Nigeria is doing very well because if you look at it, we’ve done a lot in terms of foundational technology. What I mean here is we’ve been able to move from the initial constraints we had around the lack of adequate landlines. We took a lot of advantage when mobile phones came and we used that to make a penetration which makes us among one of the fastest-growing in the world.

As at that time when we were doing this, the technology used to take advantage of mobility over and above when networks were not matured. Now, these networks are maturing and if you go about GITEX, you would see the emphasis in addition to e-development. There is also what is called m-government – mobile government. So, everything now is moving to the mobility and Nigeria has the platform to be able to leverage on that. In general terms, we are doing very well because we’ve been able to reach and penetrate many people across this mobility. Our penetration is above 35% as we speak, and the fact that mobile technology is providing broadband networks is enhancing our ability to take advantage of over 100m people in that direction.

What is your company doing to encourage IT status?
We generally are an IT platform. However, we have engaged several start-up companies with a view to providing them with the platform to be able to test, to host and revalidate their own services and devices. Getting such platforms would have been a huge cost to a lot of start-ups but we gave them the opportunity free of charge. This is in addition to the internship opportunities we provide to these start-ups.

In the next five years, where do you see Nigeria in terms of ICT development?
From the emphasis President Muhammadu Buhari has given on creating 100million jobs in the next couple of years and the policy directions given by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy who happens to be an ICT professional, makes it clear that Nigeria is taking a strong stance towards ensuring that the bulk of those jobs come from the ICT sector.
When you put these together and the fact that Nigeria’s population is very youthful and ICT oriented, all the ingredients for making Nigeria one of the foremost players in the world in terms of digital skills, creating digital values in the market is all set. We have the right policies and population. All we require is the right investment in that sector to make that happen. The government is now focusing on enabling such environment and once that is done, the sky is the limit for Nigeria.

What are your challenges in enabling those environments?
The main challenge is that of multiple taxations because aside from taxes at the federal level, we are also being charged taxes at various layers of government at the state and local levels. That issue of multiple taxations tends to hinder investment because they tend to tax investment as opposed to taxing the outcome of those investments. I think that is the greatest problem most telecom industries face especially those doing fibre phase.

What’s your call on the tax collecting and regulating agencies?
I think the call is for greater emphasis to harmonize those tariffs so that instead of a telecommunications or ICT company paying more taxes, they pay one tax and then it is shared to all the tiers of government. That could be a simple solution. Better still, let them see that taxing investment is not the way to go. They should rather wait and encourage their investments before seeking taxes.

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