Angry lawmakers order withdrawal of cybersecurity levy by CBN

The House of Representatives has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to halted the implementation of the controversial cybersecurity levy imposed on electronic transactions.

The House also mandated the joint House Committees on Banking Regulations, and Banking and other Ancillary Institutions to guide the Central Bank of Nigeria properly.

The resolution was passed on Thursday at the plenary following the adoption of a motion under a matter of urgent public importance sponsored by the Minority Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda.

Chinda cited Order 8 Rule 5, and argued that the circular by the apex bank was prone to misinterpretation by Nigerians as it negates the spirit and letters of section 44(2a) of the Cybercrime Act which specify those who are expected to pay the levy.

In his lead debate, Hon. Chinda observed that the CBN, “through a Circular to all Commercial, Merchant, Non-interest and Payment Service Banks; other Financial Institutions, Mobile Money Operators and Payment Service Providers (CBN Circular”) dated 6th May 2024 informed Nigerians of a proposed 0.5% levy on electronic transactions in line with Section 44(2)(a) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2024 (“Cybercrimes Act”).

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“The House also notes that Section 44(2)(a) of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2024 provides that ‘a levy of 0.5% (0.005) equivalent to half percent of all electronic transactions value by the business specified in the Second Schedule to this Act’ be paid into the Cybersecurity Fund.

“The House further notes that businesses which the said Section 44(2)(a) refers to are listed in the Second Schedule to the Cybercrimes Act to be: a) GSM Service Providers and all telecommunication companies; b) Internet Service Providers; c) Banks and Other Financial Institutions; d) Insurance Companies and e) Nigerian Stock Exchange.

“The Hose is concerned that 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.

“The House is further concerned that 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.

“The House is worried that this act has led to apprehension as Civil Society Organizations 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 House is further worried that unless immediate pragmatic steps are taken to halt the proposed action of the CBN, the Cybercrimes Act shall be implemented in error at a time when Nigerians are experiencing the aftermath of multiple removal of subsidies from petroleum, electricity and so on and the rising inflation,” he said.

Consequently the House directed the apex bank to withdraw the ambiguous circular and issue an unequivocal Circular in line with the letters and spirit of the Law.

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