• Trade unions kick, demand reversal of cybersecurity levy

    Trade unions kick demand reversal of cybersecurity levy - nigeria newspapers online
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    • Policy will push more Nigerians into poverty, Peter Obi warns
    • Reps steps down motion seeking suspension of CBN’s directive

    The coming days will test the resolve of the Federal Government to contain growing agitations about the 0.5 per cent levy on all electronic transactions designed to contain growing threats of cybercrime in the financial system.

    In a May 6, 2024 circular, the CBN had directed all financial institutions to commence implementation of its controversial cybersecurity levy.
    But the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has threatened it would shut down the economy if the Federal Government does not give a marching order to the CBN to scrap the policy.

    Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) demanded an immediate halt to implementation.
    TUC President, Festus Osifo, said if the Federal Government fails to comply, the Congress would have no option but mobilise members, stakeholders and the entire masses for an immediate protest that would shut down the economy.

    Osifo further described the policy as “one exploitation too many”.
    He said what all Nigerians are currently interested in is an urgent conclusion of talks on the minimum wage; not a vexatious policy that would further reduce the already depleted disposable income of the masses, and indirectly ridicule gains the minimum wage would have brought.

    He lamented that the cost of living is at an all-time high amid biting food inflation that’s contributing to the misery of citizens. He described the policy as a deliberate plot to drain Nigerians of their hard-earned money, adding: “We kick against this vehemently.”

    NLC President, Joe Ajaero, said the levy is a gang up to exploit helpless masses and exacerbate the financial strain faced by the populace.
    He said while Congress recognises the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital world, imposing the levy without considering its implications on workers and the vulnerable is unjust.

    Ajaero said: “Our people are already emasculated. This will further exacerbate the huge suffering that confronts Nigerians daily. The government must allow Nigerians a breathing space. We continue treading on the edge, and it is not certain which uncaring policy will tilt the balance and throw us into a socio-economic spiral. Such deductions directly affect the disposable income of workers and further diminish the purchasing power of the common citizen.

    “Domestic manufacturers and other businesses are already shutting down as a result of the stifling socioeconomic environment yet, instead of creating a business-friendly environment to encourage greater investments in the economy, the opposite seems to be what is being practiced.”

    Trade unions kick demand reversal of cybersecurity levy - nigeria newspapers onlineTrade unions kick demand reversal of cybersecurity levy - nigeria newspapers online

    NLC President, Joe Ajaero

    The NLC President added: “Businesses will pass down these costs to consumers which will lead to further inflation in an economy that is already in the grips of hyper-inflation. How would domestic manufactured goods and services remain competitive amid all these costs, and how would businesses expand capacity and employ more Nigerians when they cannot sell their products because of high prices?”

    The presidential candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi, described the levy as one tax too many. He noted that the tax is ill-conceived and designed to milk a dying economy.
    The former Anambra State governor disclosed this in a series of tweets on his X handle, yesterday.

    Obi said: “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.

    Trade unions kick demand reversal of cybersecurity levy - nigeria newspapers onlineTrade unions kick demand reversal of cybersecurity levy - nigeria newspapers online

    Peter Obi

    “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, it will further erode whatever is left of their remaining capital, after the impact of the naira devaluation and 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 National Security Adviser (ONSA) become a revenue-collecting centre? And why should that purely national security office receive returns on a specific tax as stated in the new cybersecurity law?”

    However, the House of Representatives, yesterday, stepped down a motion calling for the suspension of the cybersecurity levy.
    A representative, Manu Soro, who moved a motion on the floor, had explained that the levy came at the wrong time, considering the current hardship being faced by Nigerians.

    The lawmaker had argued that the ONSA is a political office, and has no mandate to manage accruals.
    However, the Speaker, Tajudeen Abbas, urged the lawmaker to step down the motion to allow the leadership of the House to deliberate on how best to address the situation.

    The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, rejected the policy.
    Reacting via a statement issued in Abuja by National Coordinator, Jamilu Aliyu Charanchi, the coalition described the policy as totally unacceptable, extortionist, and callous.

    It said: “This levy, which is expected to be effective within the next two weeks, exemplifies the Federal Government’s lack of compassion and empathy to the plight of Nigerians in the face of the current economic hardship.

    “It is heartlessness, a sequel to the subsidy removal which has now pushed fuel above N1,000 per litre. Also, the electricity tariff hike is tantamount to daylight extortion by a government that came to power through democratic processes. We believe that this additional charge is completely unjustifiable as Nigerians are already being fleeced through collection of stamp duty, transfer fee, VAT, and SMS charges in the banking sector.

    “While we concur that securing our cyberspace is paramount, it can only be justified as a corollary to the stabilisation of the economy and improvement of the standard of living. Even at that, the current 0.5% per cent is quite exorbitant in a country that has not fully implemented the N30,000 minimum wage but has reportedly raised the disposal income of the members of the National Assembly.

    “The CNG recalls that hundreds of billions of naira had been collected and pillaged through stamp duty alone in the last few years without transparent and accountable explanation by the apex bank to Nigerians.”

    The group added: “This CBN’s pronouncement, which is capable of becoming another cesspool of corruption, is wholly and roundly rejected, condemned and censured by all that have the country and its people at heart.”

    In yet another instance of opposition to the policy, the Association of Legislative Drafting and Advocacy Practitioners (ALDRAP) threatened it would take legal action against the CBN over the proposed levy.

    The association requested clarification on whether the proposed circular which seeks to implement Section 44 (8) of the Cybercrimes Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 2024 is not in conflict with Section 14 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution,

    In a letter to President Bola Tinubu, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, and others, ALDRAP said Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution declares that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. In the letter signed by Secretary, Dr. Tonye Clinton Jaja, the association stated that Section 1(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides that any provision of any other law that conflicts with the Constitution shall be deemed null and void.

    This came as the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) said the levy will compound the woes of citizens, describing it as ill-timed, anti-people, and insensitive.

    It demanded the withdrawal of the policy, saying the apex bank will face the wrath of Nigerian students if it failed to comply.

    NANS President, Lucky Emonefe, in an interview with The Guardian, said the new levy would worsen an already bad situation because Nigerians are grappling with several challenges.

    He promised to lead a protest if the directive is not reversed.

    He said: “It’s anti-people. People are going through a lot of things in this hard economy. The minimum wage has not been fully implemented by different governors. Now, they are coming up with another levy.

    “It is unacceptable, anti-people. And NANS as a body rejects it in its entirety. If they refuse to withdraw it, we are going to the streets. We are not wasting time on this. And I will personally lead from the front.

    “People should feel for the masses. The masses are suffering. The President of Nigeria is trying to turn things around. But some people will just bring in things that will thwart the efforts of the government towards revamping the economy. Those who introduced it should reverse it or face the wrath of Nigerian students.”

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