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‘It’s ambiguous’ — reps ask CBN to withdraw directive on cybersecurity levy

House of Reps

The house of representatives has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to withdraw a circular directing financial institutions to implement a 0.5 percent cybersecurity levy on electronic transfers.

The green chamber passed the resolution during a plenary session on Thursday, following the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Kingsley Chinda, a house minority leader, and 359 other lawmakers.

On May 6, the CBN directed banks and other financial institutions to implement a 0.5 percent cybersecurity levy on electronic transfers.

The regulator said the policy would take effect in two weeks and charges would be remitted to the national cybersecurity fund, which would be administered by the office of the national security adviser (ONSA).

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The CBN directive followed the amendment of the Cybercrime Act.

Section 44 (2) (a) of the repealed Act states that “a levy of 0.5% (0.005) of all electronic transactions by the businesses specified in the second schedule of this act” shall be paid and credited into the “National Cyber security Fund”.

‘CIRCULAR IS AMBIGUOS’

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During the plenary session, the lawmakers said the circular is “ambiguous”.

While moving the motion, Chinda said the directive leaves Nigerians confused about whether they or the banks are to pay the levy.

“The CBN circular mandates all banks, other financial institutions and payments service providers to implement the Cybercrimes Act by applying the levy at the point of electronic transfer origination as ‘Cybersecurity Levy’ and remitting same,” Chinda said.

“The wordings of the CBN circular leaves the CBN directive to multiple interpretations including that the levy be paid by bank customers, that is, Nigerians against the letters and spirit of section 44(2)(a) and the second schedule to the Cybercrimes Act, which specifies the businesses that should be levied accordingly.

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“This act has led to apprehension as civil society organisations and citizens have taken to conventional and social media to call out the federal government, give ultimatums for a reversal of the ‘imposed levy on Nigerians’ among other things.”

The lawmaker said “unless immediate pragmatic steps are taken to halt the proposed action of the CBN, the Cybercrimes Act shall be implemented in error a time when Nigerians are experiencing the aftermath of multiple removal of subsidies from petroleum, electricity and so on and the rising inflation”.

The motion was unanimously adopted when it was put to a voice vote by Tajudeen Abbas, the speaker of the house.

Following that, the house mandated the committees on banking regulations, and other ancillary institutions to “guide” the CBN “properly”.

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