OBINNA EZUGWU

The Lagos State Government has denied imposing five percent tax on all audio and digital contents of all physical and digital platforms in the state.

The denial comes after report emerged that the government had in defiance of an order of a federal high court, slammed five percent tax on Netflix, Iroko TV and other digital broadcast platforms.

Business Hallmark had reported that a letter by the Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board (LSFVCB), Bamidele Balogun, which was addressed to the Managing Director of Iroko TV, Jason Njoku, stated that the firm must pay 5% per cent on all visual and audio content.

The letter dated August 31, 2020, and titled, ‘Implementation of 5% Levy On All Audio and Visual Content On All Physical and Digital Platform, requested for immediate payment of 5% levy in all visual and audio contents produced by the TV.

“We hereby request for immediate payment of the five per cent levy on all audio and visual content produced, sold, distributed, marketed, exhibited, streamed, downloaded and shared across all physical and digital platform situate, lying and being within Lagos State,” the letter reads in part.

“A copy of the public notice issued earlier in this regard is herein attached. By this letter, you have been served notice as a necessary procedure and you are obliged to comply within seven days from the date of receipt of this notification.”

However, the government in a statement by the commissioner for information and strategy, Gbenga Omotoso late Friday, denied imposing the tax.

Omotoso said the LSFVCB boss was not permitted to make such announcement and has been suspended.

“There is no levy on Audio and Visual contents of all Physical and Digital Platforms in Lagos State,” the statement read.

“The Executive Secretary, Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Mr. Bamidele Balogun, is said to have announced a 5% levy. The Government hereby dissociates itself from the said announcement in the media.

“The Executive Secretary, who was not authorised to make such an announcement, has been suspended, pending an administrative enquiry.

“The fifth pillar of the T.H.E.M.E.S Agenda, the development policy of this Administration, is Entertainment and Tourism. Practitioners are partners in our effort to ensure that Lagos State remains Africa’s leader in entertainment.

“The Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu Administration is not insensitive to the fact that the industry has been badly hit by the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic and empathises with this and other sectors of the economy.

“All stakeholders in the Entertainment Industry are advised to disregard the said publication.”

Meanwhile, a Federal High Court judgment had barred the LSFVCB from levying film and video producers.

Justice Chuka Obiozor of a Federal High Court had in a judgment in June 2020 stated that the LSFVCB could not be collecting taxes at the same time as the National Film and Video Censors Board as it amounted to double taxation.

“I have examined Sections 17, 21 and 25(2) of the National Film and Video Censors Board Act and Sections 23 and 24 of the Cinematograph Law Cap. C8, Laws of Lagos State, and find a case of co-existence of a federal law and a state law on the subject-matter of registration and licensing of premises for film and video exhibition. To that extent, therefore, the federal law prevails, and the law of state must go into abeyance, while the federal law subsists,” the judge had pronounced.