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Tinubu has suspended the implementation of a cybersecurity levy to ease economic hardship, the presidency says

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the weekend ordered the suspension of the implementation of the cybersecurity levy as envisaged in the Cybersecurity Act 2015, recently unveiled by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to avoid overburdening citizens already facing economic hardship have to fight.

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

CBN had issued an implementing directive for all commercial, commercial, non-interest and payment service banks, other financial institutions, mobile operators and payment service providers to collect and remit the national cybersecurity levy.

He said the guidelines under the provisions of Section 44 (2) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015 were in line with recent developments and aimed at strengthening cybersecurity measures in Nigeria.

It provided for the imposition of a levy on electronic transactions, the proceeds of which were to be paid into the National Cybersecurity Fund (NCF) under the administration of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

Presidential sources told THIS DAY on Sunday evening that contrary to a report earlier in the day, the President did not direct the CBN to stop the implementation of the cybersecurity levy.

Rather, the source said, Tinubu, who believes in the rule of law and recognizes the independence and autonomy of the CBN, merely instructed the National Security Adviser (NSA) to suspend the implementation.

According to the source, who pleaded anonymity, “the cybersecurity levy is not a CBN measure.” CBN has only issued a circular to banks to start implementing it as a regulator. This is an NSA operation.

“The order to stop the implementation lies with ONSA. There will be internal communication between ONSA on how to implement the President’s directive.”

The source said Tinubu was not insensitive to public opinion, “which shows why he does not want to burden businesses and citizens with additional levies.”

“While the intent of the law is good and what it aims to achieve with increased cybersecurity threats, it is important that as a country we are able to build strong firewalls around the country’s database as well as the online infrastructure of government and corporate organizations against hackers .

“The levy is also intended to finance the federal government’s efforts to combat terrorism.”

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 supported the amendment bill, said in a statement in Abuja that the levy was specifically targeted at financial institutions and telecommunications companies.

He said financial institutions and telecommunications companies were the sectors most vulnerable to financial crimes and cyber fraud. The levy is intended to improve cybersecurity measures and national security in the country.

He explained: “The relevant section of the Cybercrime Act clearly regulates the companies that have to pay the levy, not the citizens.”

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

“The relevant section of the Cybercrime Act 2015 lists the entities liable to pay the levy: telecommunications companies, internet service providers, banks, insurance companies, the Nigerian Stock Exchange and other financial institutions.

“The organizations in the sectors were listed in previous Central Bank of Nigeria circulars, particularly in 2018. The CBN’s new circular also provided for numerous exceptions.”

Explaining the amount to be paid as cybersecurity levy, Buba said: “In mathematical terms, it is either 0.005 or 0.5 percent.” The figure in the main law was 0.005 as a fraction, which was converted into the percentage in the amendment, which was 0.5 percent .

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

The lawmaker stressed that the passage of the amendment bill was a joint effort by various stakeholders.

He explained: “The passage of the amendment bill was a joint effort of the government, industry, civil society and academia.”

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

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

The Senator noted the concerns of Nigerians, civic groups and other stakeholders over the current economic situation and assured them that the Cybersecurity Bill was not intended to penalize citizens.

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

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