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Nigerian govt should improve cybersecurity before introducing levy – Expert

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An Information Communication Technology, ICT expert, Jide Awe, has called on the Federal Government to focus on strengthening cybersecurity rather than floating levies that will further worsen economic hardship of Nigerians.

Mr Awe, also a Science, Technology and Innovation, STI Policy Advisor, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

He recognised that the 0.5 per cent Cybersecurity Levy as recently announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was duly captured in the Cybercrime Prohibition, Prevention Act, as amended in 2024.

The expert, however, explained that the timing of the levy was a huge concern, saying, ”because Nigerians are grappling with economic hardship, lots of bank charges and other national challenges.

Mr Awe said, “A convenience associated with electronic transactions is undeniable, but already, consumers have complained and are not comfortable with the slew of banking fees and charges they have to pay for their everyday transactions.

“The new cybersecurity levy further increases the operational costs of companies and increases the financial burden on individuals in an already harsh economic climate. The timing is a concern.

“It would be ideal if the government, in collaboration with stakeholders, could balance the need for improved cybersecurity with the economic challenges.

“They should also consider the public’s widespread perception of excessive banking charges, because this additional strain on organisations and individuals could lead to further price increases for consumer.”

Part of his concerns was that the continuous stream of electronic banking and financial charges, which he said would truncate efforts to build a cashless ecosystem.

According to him, the intention of the levy appears to be to provide funding for cybersecurity, following digital adoption and growth nationwide.

Mr Awe added, “The ultimate goal, however, should be to improve the level of trust in the digital economy and the cashless environment.

“Transparent management and utilisation of the levied funds are crucial, regular evaluations are necessary to ensure the levy actually strengthens cybersecurity and serves its intended purpose.

“Meaningful stakeholder participation and contribution are critical. Already, there are buy-in challenges with the manner in which the levy implementation was introduced.

“Legal backing is essential but isn’t the only requirement for successful implementation of measures of this nature.

“The process and implementation must be properly managed to ensure it does not discourage cashless transactions and hinder technological development.’’

Mr Awe, however, urged Nigerians not to despair, adding that the levy requirements had some exemptions on certain transactions.

Some of the exemptions, he said, included customer account transactions, salary payments, social welfare programmes, non-profit and charitable transactions, and educational institutions payments.

According to him, it could lessen the burden in some instances.

He advised that the government should carry the masses along in its policies, adding that cybersecurity cannot rely solely on legalistic measures and enforcement.

Mr Awe said the government should engage the judiciary, stakeholders, the citizens and ensure quality implementation, transparency in the process of the levy collection.

The CBN, on May 6, issued a circular mandating all banks, mobile money operators and payment service providers to implement a new cybersecurity levy.

The announcement was in accordance with the Cybercrime Prohibition, Prevention Act 2024, (as amended).
NAN

 

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