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FIRS rejects additional tax to fund child online protection bill

The Federal Inland Revenue Service, on Tuesday,  kicked against the imposition of additional taxes and levies on business owners to raise money for funding the Child’s Online Access Protection Bill.

The FIRS Chairman, Mr Zacch Adedeji,  represented by Mr Mathew Osanekwu, made this known when he appeared before the House Committee on Justice in Abuja on Tuesday.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the committee is holding a public hearing on a bill to provide for the Child Online Access Protection Bill 2023.

This bill also included other issues of online violence against Nigerian children and related matters.

Adedeji said the FIRS had already been given a target, and instead of levelling additional burden through taxation to fund the bill to become an Act, it should be funded through appropriation.

“The impression we have is that the funding will be through a levy. We already have eight different levies, and I advised that the funding should come by way of appropriation,” Adedeji said.

He added that this became necessary since FIRS was charged with collecting revenue for the government.

Speaking in support of the bill, he said:  “Our position is that FIRS fully supports the bill, and its intention is a great initiative.

“We have to adopt global best practices; we observed that funding to make it happen is also in the bill, and in this, we have raised issues,” he said.

The Deputy Director, Legal, Nigeria Communication Commission, Abang Abua, who represented the commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Aminu Maida, said the commission was concerned about the method of funding in the form of taxation.

“We are concerned about tax because our operators are already inundated with taxes,” he said.

He said the commission had been very active in child online protection and had deployed child line protection protocol.

Also speaking, the Deputy Director, Legal, National Human Rights Commission, Ms Pwadumoi Okoh, who represented the chairman, said the bill was a proactive step to ensure the rights of children were protected.

 She, however, said the NHRC had observed some errors in the bill and submitted its inputs to the House.

“We suggest that the committee should explore some other relevant Nigerian laws instead of duplicating efforts in agencies where such laws exist.

“We should look at other Acts of the agencies of government that have similar mandates so as not to have interagency rivalry.”

Usman Kumoh (APC-Gombe), who represented the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, said the House would continue to protect the rights of the child.

“We will continue to protect the interests of the children on a moral and legal basis. All hands must be on deck to protect children from being harmed.

“Nigeria cannot live in isolation in the digital world, and our children must not be exposed to the dangers of the internet,” he said.

He said the bill must be done collaboratively between parents, and service providers.

This, according to him,  ensures that children are protected and adults will not be able to take advantage of their rights.

He said the bill was not targeted at taxing anybody, adding that what the House was demanding was to take part of the existing money to fund the bill.

The Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Olumide Osoba, said the bill was straightforward, adding that it was meant to ensure that service providers safeguarded the Internet for children.

Osoba said the FIRS should be more interested in protecting the Nigerian child than in tax collection.

NAN reports that other stakeholders that appeared at the committee sitting included the Ministry of Women Affairs and the Data Protection Agency, among others.

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