The Nigerian government has been urged to look into the concept of taxing outgoing mobile phone calls made within the country at one kobo per second, in a bid to generate funds to provide quality healthcare to all members of the society.
Backstory: The suggestion was made by a coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and professional associations in the partnership with Advocacy in Child and Family Health at Scale (PACFaH@Scale), at a press conference in the F.C.T to commemorate the 2018 International Universal Health Coverage (IUHC) Day.
Key point: Based on data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there was a reported 0.09% increase in mobile subscriber base in the second quarter of 2018 to 162.5 million subscribers. With such a data, Ayo Adebusoye, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNNGO), suggested mobile phone taxation as an innovative way to achieve the mandate of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria.
The UHC looks to creating an environment where quality and reliable healthcare services are delivered to all citizens when they require them, without financial blockades or hurdles.
Making the same point, Dr. Edwin Akpotor, Programme Manager, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN)-PACFaH@Scale Project, further explained that this method would ensure that each Nigerian contributed to funding the health sector. Noting that less than 5% of the Nigerian populace are covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Akpotor said, “The money, which will be domiciled in TSA account both the government, CSOs, media and others, will collaborate and decide the modalities of its implementation for UHC as well as enrolling everyone in NHIS.”
Also speaking at the conference, Vice President, Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics (SOGON), Habib Saduki, explained that the mobile taxing technique wasn’t new as he had sponsored a similar bill during his tenure at the House of Representatives. However it fell off, due to his inability to return back into office, despite passing through the first reading of the House.
One more thing: As noted at the event, the Buhari administration committed to spending 15% of the national budget on health, however, the highest allocation received so far in its three budgets, has been 7% (less than half of what it committed).