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Tinubu Suspended Cybersecurity Levy Implementation To Ease Economic Hardship, Says Presidency 

Senate Committee Chairman on National Security and Intelligence said cybersecurity levy isn’t targeted at individuals, but financial institutions, telecoms firms.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the weekend, directed the suspension of the implementation of the cybersecurity levy, as provided for in the Cybersecurity Act 2015 recently unveiled by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to avoid overburdening citizens who were already battling economic hardship.

But Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Senator Shehu Buba, on Sunday, said the cybersecurity levy was not targeted at individuals, but meant for financial institutions and telecoms firms, among others.

CBN had issued an implementation guideline to all commercial, merchant, non-interest and payment service banks, other financial institutions, mobile money operators, and payment service providers on the collection and remittance of the national cybersecurity levy.

The guidance, pursuant to the provisions of Section 44 (2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015, it said, was in line with recent developments and aimed to bolster cybersecurity measures in Nigeria.

It mandated the imposition of a levy on electronic transactions, with the proceeds paid into the National Cybersecurity Fund (NCF) under the administration of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

Presidency sources told THISDAY Sunday night that contrary to a report earlier in the day, the president did not order the CBN to stop the implementation of the cybersecurity levy.

Rather, Tinubu, who believed in the rule of law, and recognised the independence of the CBN and its autonomy, the source claimed, only directed the National Security Adviser (NSA) to suspend the implementation.

According to the source, who pleaded anonymity, “The cybersecurity levy is not a CBN action. CBN only issued circular to banks to commence implementation as a regulator. It is an action of the NSA.

“The directive to stop implementation is to ONSA. There will be internal communication between ONSA on how to carry out the presidential directive.”

The source said Tinubu was not insensitive to public opinion, “which informed why he does not want to overburden businesses and citizens with extra levy.

“Though the intention of the law is good and what it seeks to achieve with heightened cybersecurity threats, it is important as a country we have capability to build strong firewalls around the nation’s database and government and corporate organisations’ online infrastructure against hackers.

“The levy is also designed to fund counterterrorism efforts of the federal government.”

Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Senator Shehu Buba, said the recently announced cybersecurity levy was not targeted at individuals operating bank accounts.

Rather, Buba, who sponsored the amendment bill, in a statement in Abuja, explained that the levy was aimed explicitly at financial institutions and telecommunication companies.

He said the financial institutions and telecommunication firms were most vulnerable sectors to financial crimes and cyber fraud, the levy was to enhance cybersecurity measures and national security in the country.

He stated, “The relevant section of the Cybercrime Act is very clear about the businesses that are required to pay the levy, not the citizens.

“The Act is very explicit about who is responsible for the payment, not Nigerian citizens or individuals.

“The relevant Section of the Cybercrime Act 2015 listed the businesses required to pay the levy: telecommunications companies, Internet Service Providers, Banks, Insurance Companies, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and other Financial Institutions.

“The organisations in the sectors have been listed in previous circulars by the Central Bank of Nigeria, especially in 2018. The new circular by the CBN further provided many exemptions.”

Explaining the amount payable as a cybersecurity levy, Buba said, “It is either 0.005 or 0.5 percent arithmetically. The figure in the principal act was 0.005 as a fraction, which was converted to the percentage that became 0.5 percent in the amendment.

“Therefore, the statistics in fractions and percentages are the same.”

The legislator highlighted that the passage of the amendment bill was a collaborative effort of various stakeholders.

He stated, “The passage of the amendment bill was a collaborative effort involving the government, industry players, civil society, and academia.

“They expressed their contributions and actively  participated in the public hearing before the endorsement by the two chambers of the National Assembly.

“After rigorous processes, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed the bill into law in February 2024.”

The senator acknowledged the concerns of Nigerians, civil groups, and other stakeholders about the current economic situation, and reassured them that the cybersecurity law was not meant to punish citizens.

 Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Michael Olugbode, Emmanuel Addeh and Sunday Aborisade

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