SERAP, BudgIT, Others Sue CBN Over Cybersecurity levy

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project; a not-for-profit organization, BudgIT, and 136 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against the Central Bank of Nigeria “over its failure” to withdraw the cybersecurity levy.

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, made available to newsmen on Sunday 

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, SAN, 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 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 accepted 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 pay 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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Rita Elenwo

Rita Aletor- Elenwo, is a professional journalist with experience in broadcast, print and online reporting. A proud citizen of Edo state, Nigeria (Esan South East Local Government) Rita had her first degree in philosophy from Ebonyi State University (2008), PGD, in Communication from the University of Port Harcourt (2020), and currently in pursuit of an MSC degree in communication. Rita (nee Aletor-) is happily married with lovely children.

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