Prof. Ibrahim Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, has revealed how the Federal Government collected taxes in advance from telecommunications companies to foot salaries.
According to Pantami, the N25bn approved by the Federal Executive Council to replace infrastructure in the National Identity Management Commission had not been released owing to financial challenges.
The Minister noted that the current administration has prioritised payment of salaries to the provision of infrastructure, revealing that the Ministry is satisfied in as much as it is for the general good.
He made this disclosure on Friday, in Gombe during a convocation lecture with the theme, ‘Deployment of emerging technology to enhance the security of tertiary institutions in Nigeria,’ marking the sixth-35th combined graduation ceremony (1991/1992 – 2020/2021) of the Federal College of Education (Technical).
Pantami said, “When I was given the privilege to supervise the NIMC last year, the database was just 42 million people from 2007 to 2020. In 13 years we were able to gather only 42 million. From that time to this year I have increased the database, with all sense of humility to more than 67 million.
“From that time last year to today, no single Kobo has been released for us to do that, we are leveraging on existing infrastructure. We were able to come up with our innovative solution in which we increased enrolment centres in the country from 1,600 to over 6,000 today.
“The Federal Executive Council has approved N25bn to replace the infrastructure of National Identity Management Commission, but till date, no single Kobo has been released. Why? Because of the challenge of recession we had before, now we have exited recession. Government has made paying salaries and others a priority.
“Many people may not know that sometimes in government we have to collect tax from telecommunications companies in advance in order to pay salary and to share the money in the federation account. During the lockdown, even taxes were collected in advance in the sector to pay salary.”
He said the progression in the ministry’s turnover since assumption of office has witnessed over 600 per cent increase in two years, stressing that the chunk of revenue comes from licensing, tax.
“In the previous years before I was appointed, the annual collection of tax and the rest within the sector was around N500bn to N600bn within two years. But in my first two years in office, I was able to increase that by over N1 trillion. This was through spectrum, licensing, tax. It has never happened in the history of the country.
“In some cases, we increased revenue generation from the sector by over 600 per cent and most of the money is being spent in paying salaries to the extent that the ministry and the parastatal generating the money don’t have money to execute other projects. But we are comfortable to generate for others to spend,” Pantami added.