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From Rehoboam syndrome to cybersecurity tax

From Rehoboam syndrome to cybersecurity tax
May 15
06:00 2024

There is always something new to talk about in this part of the world. If it is not fuel queues which remain stubborn irrespective of the removal of subsidy about eleven months ago, it’s about the increase of tariff on electricity, a product that is hardly available in the market or even the soaring cost of a bag of rice or the Naira that has defied all good intended interventions by the Central Bank.

Some trifles and mundane issues which ordinarily shouldn’t be any problem have graduated to national challenges because of our inability to deal with small issues at embryo.

There is always something new to talk about in this part of the world. Except that at this time, developments have hit a bedlam because there is always something new that irritates the people to the point of incomprehension, making it difficult for them to react rationally. Always something new happening to the same people, week after week, and I pray not in perpetuity.

The new one last week was the 0.5 percent Cybersecurity Tax which the Central Bank directed all the banks to collect on every electronic transaction effective last Monday. The money collected will be remitted to the National Cybersecurity Fund (NCF) which is domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). The levy derives from the provisions of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) (amendment) Act 2024, Section 44 (2) (a) which speak of the establishment of the Cybersecurity Fund, the monies to be collected and the office to administer the Fund. The amendment is a recent achievement of the National Assembly which has gone to sleep on nearly all troubling national issues sans the purchase of SUVs for themselves to ply the bad roads across the land.

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There are so many woollen sub heads under which a lot of things can happen or even be hidden. Cybersecurity is one and the fact that it is domiciled in the office of the NSA adds some halo of mystique and exigent importance. Nobody meddles with Cybersecurity. It is important to curb threats in cyberspace and ensure they get immediate response.

Cybersecurity is not a word that attracts frivolous attention. That can only be at the peril of the individual, institution or nation. Nobody jokes with that word. It can devastate a nation, endanger public safety, ruin the financial sector, transportation system, power supply, traffic light, water supply and just anything that enjoys modern technology and some relationship with the internet. Oh, if you add the Internet of things (IoT), the relationship between you and even your refrigerators and air conditioners, the list becomes even more comprehensive. Cybersecurity provides a covering. Cyber warfare is not anything that anybody wants to think about. So the eyes are always open and the cyberspace under constant surveillance to protect the citizenry from all kinds of cyber harm. Even then the nation has not been able to protect the financial sector, Nigerians and other nationals from the blight and shame of yahoo yahoo boys! – internet thieves and scammers.

Elections in the most advanced countries have come under cyber attack by rogue nations and even respectable ones who want to influence decisions in other jurisdictions. Cybersecurity has a commanding hold of the present and well into the future. It has become an important field of study and it continues to expand. At the moment, Cybersecurity provides a generic protective shield for all kinds of human endeavour and will remain very relevant well into the foreseeable future.

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It is my humble observation that no sane person here or in any other part of the world, will frown at channelling more money to Cybersecurity, except that in Nigeria, we often start a good dance on the wrong foot. Instead of being creative in allocating resources, they turned towards the poor, the very helpless and emasculated in the society, to further squeeze their blood.

There is a cry across the land as it was in the days of Rehoboam. You remember the Rehoboam syndrome? Taxation has always been a problem, my friend, as it was in Israel in the days of Solomon and his son, Rehoboam. People will always cry when the tax load is too heavy. Remember the biblical story? Solomon put too much tax on the people which his son, Rehoboam, refused to alleviate for the people. The people’s reaction split the kingdom of Israel into two.

I have often heard people say, let’s do it and nothing will happen. The assumption here is not foolproof. They said so in the days of Rehoboam, and something happened – anarchy. Nobody prays for anarchy in our dear nation. But, this know that too much oppression and tax load can lead to spontaneous and unpleasant consequences. Again, nobody prays for that. But caution becomes the operating word here.

The ordinary folks are not alone in their misery and cries against tax asphyxiation. The lower house of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives, has asked the CBN to withdraw its directive to the banks, although the Senate is pursuing a justification, saying the CBN went beyond the provisions of the law in the planned implementation.

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But nobody is buying any uploaded stories by moonlight. Different bodies, including the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) have risen to condemn the Tax describing it as insensitive to the plight of the people. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) has said the tax could slow down financial inclusion which this government seems to have pursued with considerable determination. The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) described the tax as arbitrary, illegal and out of touch with the realities confronting Nigerians.

KPMG has said this is not the right time to implement the levy while pointing out that no country has taxed itself to prosperity.

Legal luminary and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has faulted the wrong interpretation of the amended Act by the CBN, explaining that the levy was not met for individuals.

In the cacophony of voices across the nation and the smouldering arbitrariness of actions in high places, somebody must take charge. The 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman once said: “The Buck Stops Here.” Right on his desk to take bold decisions when everybody seems to be losing a head or be afraid to fly where only eagles dare.

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Thankfully, by the weekend, President Bola Tinubu had taken the bold decision to suspend the levy. That is smart and bold leadership, taking lithe decisions which underpin a leaning to the people. After all, The Buck Stops on His Table.

The truth is that the Cybersecurity levy has become the latest addition to the nation’s growing dictionary of misery. There seems to be an orchestrated comeuppance for the drudgery of the ordinary folk in the society to whom life has little meaning at the moment.

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All kinds of challenges against him. Monthly salary cannot fund electricity tariff for one week. If he once had a car, he can’t fuel it any more. He doesn’t even have the boldness to aspire towards buying a bag of rice. Food security for him is a utopian phrase from the United Nations. The daily reality is empty stomach for him and his family. Yet there are levies, more levies and more taxes.

Oh, the Acts shields the ordinary folks and provides for only telecom operators, financial institutions and other businesses to make payments to the Cybersecurity Fund? That doesn’t fly so high. At the end everything will return to the ordinary folk who will have to fund it indirectly. From all indications, he is beleaguered and conquered. He needs the protection of the President for a more needed release from the ever gathering yoke.

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Rehoboam turned his back on the people and blocked his ears. Thank God our President listens. After all, The Buck Stops on His Table!

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