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24 hours of SERAP deadline to Tinubu, Obi says cybersecurity levy is milking a dying economy’

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With 24 hours into the deadline given by the Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) deadline to President Bola Tinubu to stand down on the newly introduced cybersecurity levy or face a court action, the Labour Party Presidential Candidate in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi, has described the levy by the Federal Government as taxes too many and aimed at milking a dying economy.

Obi”s comments come as anger sweeps through the land on the issue, though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been explaining the categories of transactions affected by the levy.

Obi said that instead of nurturing the recovery and growth of the economy, the government by its multiple taxation is more interested in heaping more burden on the people who are already suffering severe economic stress.

Writing on his X handle on Wednesday morning Obi said that “the introduction of yet another tax, in the form of Cybersecurity Levy, on Nigerians who are already suffering severe economic distress is further proof that the government is more interested in milking a dying economy instead of nurturing it to recovery and growth.

“This does not only amount to multiple taxation on banking transactions, which are already subject to various other taxes including stamp duties but negates the Government’s avowed commitment to reduce the number of taxes and streamline the tax system.

“The imposition of a Cybersecurity Levy on bank transactions is particularly sad given that the tax is on the trading capital of businesses and not on their profit hence will further erode whatever is left of their remaining capital, after the impact of the Naira devaluation high inflation rate. It is inconceivable to expect the suffering citizens of Nigeria to separately fund all activities of the government.

“Policies such as this not only impoverish the citizens but make the country’s economic environment less competitive.

“At a time when the government should be reducing taxes to curb inflation, the government is instead introducing new taxes. And when did the office of the NSA become a revenue-collecting center?

“And why should that purely national security office receive returns on a specific tax as stated in the new cybersecurity law?”

Recall that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged President Bola Tinubu to use his “good offices to immediately direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to withdraw the cybersecurity levy on Nigerians as it patently violates the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.”

SERAP also urged him “to stop Mr Nuhu Ribadu and the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) from implementing section 44 and other repressive provisions of the Cybercrimes Act 2024 as it flagrantly violates the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

SERAP urged him “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN to immediately prepare and present a bill to amend section 44 and other repressive provisions of the Cybercrimes Act 2024 to the National Assembly so that those provisions can be brought in line with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations.”

In a statement today signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The Tinubu administration must within 48 hours withdraw the patently arbitrary and unlawful CBN directive purportedly imposing cybersecurity levy on Nigerians.

SERAP said, “Section 44(8) criminalizing the non-payment of the cybersecurity levy by Nigerians is grossly unlawful and constitutional.”

The statement, read in part: “Our lawyer Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, is already preparing the necessary court papers should the administration fail or neglect to act as recommended.”

“The administration must urgently take concrete and effective measures to ensure the repeal of section 44 and other repressive provisions of the Cybercrimes Act 2024.

“If the unlawful CBN directive is not withdrawn and appropriate steps are not taken to amend the repressive provisions of the Cybercrimes Act within 48 hours, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel the Tinubu administration to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“Withdrawing the unlawful CBN directive and repealing the repressive provisions of the Cybercrimes Act 2024 will be entirely consistent with president Tinubu’s constitutional oath of office requires public officials to uphold the provisions of the constitution, and the rule of law and abstain from all improper acts.”

“The repressive provisions of the Cybercrimes Act 2024 are clearly inconsistent and incompatible with the public trust and the overall objectives of the Constitution. A false oath lacks truth and justice. The oath statements require the oath takers to commit to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

“Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] provides that, ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

“The CBN yesterday has directed banks and other financial institutions to implement a 0.5 percent cybersecurity levy on electronic transfers on the basis of the section 44 44(2)(a) of the Cybercrimes Act 2024 purportedly imposing a “a levy of 0.005 equivalent to a half percent of all electronic transactions value by the business specified in the second schedule of the Act.”

“The money is to be remitted to the National Cybersecurity Fund (NCF), which shall be administered by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).”

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