SERAP demands Tinubu to withdraw unconstitutional cybersecurity levy imposed by CBN

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urgently called upon President Bola Tinubu to instruct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to retract the cybersecurity levy imposed on Nigerians.

SERAP asserts that this levy blatantly violates the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights commitments.

SERAP has further urged President Tinubu to halt the implementation of section 44 and other restrictive measures of the Cybercrimes Act 2024, overseen by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu and the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). These measures, according to SERAP, also contravene Nigeria’s constitutional provisions and its international human rights obligations.

The organization has directed President Tinubu to task the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, with drafting and presenting a bill to amend section 44 and other oppressive clauses of the Cybercrimes Act 2024 to the National Assembly. This, SERAP argues, is essential to aligning these provisions with Nigeria’s constitutional standards and international human rights obligations.

The CBN’s directive issued on Monday mandates all banks to levy a 0.5 per cent cybersecurity charge on electronic transactions within Nigeria. While this levy is scheduled to commence two weeks from May 6, it has drawn criticism for its impact on ordinary Nigerians.

Exemptions from this levy include specific banking transactions such as loan disbursements and repayments, salary payments, and intra-account transfers. However, the levy’s structure entails charges ranging from five Naira on transactions of N1,000 to fifty thousand Naira on transactions of N10,000,000, in addition to existing bank charges like transfer fees and VAT.

In a statement signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization asserts that the Tinubu administration must retract the arbitrary and unlawful CBN directive within 48 hours. SERAP deems section 44(8) of the Cybercrimes Act, which criminalizes non-payment of the cybersecurity levy, as unconstitutional.

Failure to withdraw the CBN directive and amend the Cybercrimes Act within the stipulated timeframe, SERAP warns, may result in legal action to ensure compliance in the public interest.

In response to the cybersecurity levy, Professor Uwaleke, an expert in capital markets, criticized its timing. He argued that the levy could exacerbate financial exclusion and hinder monetary policy transmission, ultimately impeding the government’s efforts to curb inflation. He suggests suspending the policy and focusing on streamlining taxes and levies as recommended by the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms.

In summary, SERAP’s call for urgent action underscores the need to address constitutional violations and protect the rights of Nigerians amidst evolving cybersecurity measures.

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