The Executive Director of the Native Consortium & Research Centre, Edmond Abu Junior, has told this medium that his Organisation views a recent statement released by the National Revenue Authority in response to a voice clip and statement he made on the NRA’s decision to increase the tariff on data and voice transmission on a new Telecommunications Company, as not only libelous but also undermines his hard-earned integrity and puts the name of the organisation he heads into disrepute.
Mr. Abu said that to set the records straight for his organisation and save his reputation, he is challenging the NRA to either retract and apologise within 7 days or face court action for Defamatory Libel, using provisions under Section 26 and 27 of the 1965 Public Order Act.
“I want to take great exception to some seditious and sweeping comments about my person as the CEO and Founder of the Native Consortium & Research Centre. To say ‘one Edmond Abu claimed or purported’, we see this as insulting and defamatory on the person of Edmond Abu as a Consumer and a Leading Civil Society Activist of the first order, who has been a consumer protection and economic rights Campaigner with 24 years standing experience” Mr. Abu angrily remarked.
The Civil Society Activist said that as much as the public knows his stance and position in the Native Consortium, but for the record and the edification of those who might have read the defamatory post of the NRA, he would like to reiterate that he did not only make a voice clip on social media on the issue but also did the Video clip on the same matter to show that the person on the audio was not faceless.
Edmond Abu said that the Native Consortium is a leading Economic Justice and Consumer Protection Think Tank in the Mano-River Basin, adding that he has built the gravitas and national character over the past 2 decades and has attended international conferences as a public speaker representing Native Consortium for many years.
“The Native Consortium is a legally registered Civil Society Think-Tank that is limited by Guarantee, and Edmond Abu is the lead actor in the NATCOM-Mobile Operators Consumer Parliament. We can sue and be sued so our legal status is not in question. So we can’t sit by and entertain any defamatory epithet being ascribed to a name that I have worked for with my sweat and blood. If NRA fails to respond within 7 days, we shall press legal action.” he affirmed.
Dilating further on the issues, Mr Abu said that it appears the NRA did not listen to the audio properly because they answered their own question by circumventing the central issues raised in the audio, but he wants to thank NRA for not denying that they ever issued a letter requesting the application of GST on a free call promotion done by Qcell.
Mr Abu added that they strongly of the conviction that for the NRA to write a letter requesting QCell to apply fair GST or fair tariff is not only a draconian tax regime bent to kill new businesses but it shows that NRA is insensitive, anti-business and further validates the stereotype held by the public that state institutions are most often than not, not serving the in the interest of the downtrodden, adding that the business of applying or determining GST on free calls and/or Promo is purely within the realm of the NATCOM and not NRA.
He said the action the NRA took in response to his statement is a desperate damage control measure to cover a tax regime that is aimed at depriving poor people from enjoying free calls for the short-term from new players in the Telecoms industry and he is not sure this is in line with the agenda of the NEW DIRECTION government.
“As I speak now, Qcell has increased the tariffs – the 1 GB that used to cost Le 5,000 now costs Le 18,000. I am guided to assert that this is not within the President’s agenda to fight poverty or building the Human Capital” Edmond Abu opined.
The Civil Society Activist said that the business of the NRA is to levy and collect tax, adding that if a client puts his own tariff lower that is not the business of NRA. He added that the NCRC is fighting to ensure that the tariff charged by mobile companies for cross-calling from other networks remain equal as it is in Liberia and Guinea, therefore, any action that leads to adding more exploitation on consumers will be resisted.
Edmond Abu expressed further dismay over the NRA’s behaviour towards him because according to him, he has attended meetings with NRA officials both senior and Junior officers, including the Commissioner of Domestic tax and that he helped NRA to sell the GST tax introduction through a nation-wide outreach and Public relation, using his own staff and network in 2009 freely.
In a special press statement released by the Native Consortium to support their claim and pending case against the NRA, the NCRC brought out the following prescriptions and question:
- Is the NRA aware that Sierra Leone has the highest Mobile tariff in the world according to the World Bank?
- Sierra Leoneans may want to know why is the NRA in a hurry to levy tax on free calls/promos from Qcell at this early stage when Qcell is fighting to penetrate the market and it is yet to even reach its break-even point.
- At the time when NATCOM was trying to resuscitate SMART Mobile Company from dying to save more than 250 Sierra Leoneans jobs, NRA rushed to seize and close the Head Office of SMART Company in its quest to settle outstanding tax obligations, thereby forcing SMART Mobile to shut down prematurely on the alter of tax obligation.
- I want to submit that the NRA look at this common sense, One Minute Qcell to Qcell voice tariff is Le 100, AFRICEL/ORANGE on same Network is Le 650. Data tariff: ORANGE/AFRICEL 4GB is Le 125,000 and Le 120,000 respectively whiles 4GB Qcell is Le 20,000 before the letter was written. Only a tax collector who is bent on killing businesses will apply fair GST tariff as a one-size-fits all tax regime, this is completely inexcusable.
- Is the NRA aware that people are fed-up with the existing Mobile Companies and they have been suffering in silence for far too long? You can see how people are queuing for Qcell Sim not that they love Qcell but they found a temporary solace in them. If possible people need more Telecommunication players in the industry and only a tax exemption will help them thrive.
The Organisation also declared that going forward; they want to remind the NRA of the following:
- We want to remind NRA and NATCOM that there are Millions of unregistered Sims sold by AFRICEL & ORANGE that have been in circulation for years with the help of some big cartels. No GST tax is being collected on them, making the Government to lose Billions of Leones on a daily basis.
- Recently some Chinese sim-box fraudsters were arrested by NATCOM and the Police. NATCOM wrote a letter inviting Native Consortium in the Counting process and from our preliminary findings, we discovered about 520,000 unregistered Sims from AFRICEL alone, while ORANGE had about 20,000 Unregistered Sims. The Mobile Operators have been cheating the past and present Government by the backdoor. Not only that, they are also promoting cybercrimes simply because we have very weak regulations. This is what a serious tax institution should be worried about, and not to be in a hurry to levy high and/or flat tax on new companies.
- Is Ministry of Finance through the NRA aware about how the nation is bleeding from taxes that could be collected from our marine and fisheries industry? The country is supposed to mobilise a minimum of fifty Million Dollars ($ 50 Mil USD) annually from licenses, royalties and fees. This speaks volumes about how much we need to diversify our economy to generate more taxes and by doing so, the NRA will issue more tax rebates for new businesses to thrive and also create jobs.
- Can we all as Sierra Leoneans mirror SIERRATEL and ask why is it that SIERRATEL cannot effectively compete in the Industry? They should be the leading GSM company in Sierra Leone but yet they are still using an outdated CDMA system, simply because some evil and unscrupulous business people don’t want our own state owned Telecommunication Company to join the market and pay government attractive Dividends, PAYE, and Corporation tax.
As we go to press, NewsWatch would continue to follow up on this story and provide updates for the public as it unfolds.