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  • Business - Your Money
  • Updated: May 12, 2024

Cybersecurity levy: CSOs sue CBN

Cybersecurity levy: CSOs sue CBN

A lawsuit has been filed against the Central Bank of Nigeria over its failure to withdraw the cybersecurity levy.

The lawsuit was brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project; a not-for-profit organisation, BudgIT, and 136 concerned Nigerians.

In what was described as an “unlawful circular,” the plaintiffs in the suit number FHC/L/CS/822/2024 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos State, asked the court to determine “whether the CBN circular dated 6th May 2024, directing financial institutions to deduct from customers’ accounts a cybersecurity levy is unlawful and therefore ultra vires the CBN.”

This is contained in a statement issued by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare on Sunday.

Last Monday, through a circular, the apex bank ordered all commercial, merchant, non-interest, and payment service banks, among others. operating in the country to start charging a cybersecurity levy on transactions.

The CBN noted that, in compliance with the enactment of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) (Amendment) Act 2024 and under the provision of Section 44 (2)(a) of the Act, a levy of 0.5 per cent (0.005) equivalent to a half per cent of all electronic transactions value by the business specified in the Second Schedule of the Act, is to be remitted to the National Cybersecurity Fund which shall be administered by the Office of the National Security Adviser.

“The levy shall be applied at the point of electronic transfer origination, then deducted and remitted by the financial institution. The deducted amount shall be reflected in the customer’s account with the narration, ‘Cybersecurity Levy.” the circular stated.

The Punch had earlier reported that President Bola Tinubu had asked the CBN to suspend the implementation of the controversial cybersecurity levy policy and ordered a review, the plaintiffs asked the court to determine whether the apex bank’s directive “are not in breach of sections 14(2), 44(1) and 162(1) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and therefore unconstitutional, null, and void.

They also demanded that the “CBN, its office, agents, privies, assigns, or any other persons acting on its instructions from enforcing the circular dated 6th May 2024, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed contemporaneously in this suit,” be restrained.

The suit filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, read in part, “The CBN circular is unlawful and an outright violation of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations.

“Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the CBN will enforce its circular directing banks to deduct from customers’ accounts a cybersecurity levy. Millions of Nigerians with active bank accounts would suffer irreparable damage from the unlawful deduction of cybersecurity levies from their accounts.

“The provisions of the Cybercrimes Act on payment of cybersecurity levy strictly apply only to businesses listed in the Second Schedule to the Act. These provisions make no reference to bank customers, contrary to the CBN circular to all banks and other financial institutions.”

The statement noted that while the CBN’s circular “a blatant violation of Nigerians’ human rights including the right to property guaranteed under section 44 of the Nigerian Constitution and article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party,” the Federal Government “has a legal responsibility to ensure the security and welfare of the people, as provided for under section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The plaintiffs, therefore, urged the court to “grant the reliefs sought in the public interest and the interest of justice as well as to prevent arbitrariness and ensure the rule of law in the country.”

The cybersecurity levy, as ordered by the apex bank, is to be be remitted to the National Cybersecurity Fund which shall be administered by the Office of the National Security Adviser.

While disagreeing with this, the plaintiffs noted that according to Section 162 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, the payment of “revenues collected by or on behalf of the Government of the Federation are mandatorily required to be paid into the Federation Account save the revenue excepted by the provisions of the section.

“The National Cybersecurity Fund established by section 44(1) of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 [as amended] into which it is required to be paid the levy of 0.5% chargeable on all electronic transactions instead of the Federation Account is unconstitutional, null, and void.

“As of 30 April 2024, commercial banks in Nigeria already charge exorbitant fees for electronic transactions, including electronic transfer charges at N53.75 on any amount above N10,000; stamp duty of N50 on every transaction and account maintenance charge deducted per month,” the statement partly read.

 

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

 

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