Agbakoba To Sue CBN Over Cybersecurity Levy

Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has announced his intention to challenge the implementation of the controversial cybersecurity levy in court. This move comes in response to the directive issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on May 6, instructing financial institutions to impose the cybersecurity levy on all electronic transactions. The levy, set at 0.5 percent, is mandated by section 44 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Amendment Act 2024 and is to be administered by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

Agbakoba’s decision to challenge the cybersecurity levy underscores concerns about its legality and potential implications. As a seasoned legal practitioner, he likely aims to scrutinize the legal basis for imposing such a levy and assess its conformity with existing laws and constitutional provisions. By initiating legal action, Agbakoba seeks to ensure transparency, accountability, and adherence to due process in matters affecting financial regulations and national security.

The implementation of the cybersecurity levy has sparked debate and raised questions about its necessity, fairness, and potential impact on businesses and consumers. Critics argue that such levies could impose additional financial burdens on individuals and businesses, particularly in the context of already challenging economic conditions. Moreover, concerns have been raised about the adequacy of cybersecurity measures and the effectiveness of the levy in addressing cyber threats comprehensively.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the outcome of Agbakoba’s challenge will likely have far-reaching implications for the cybersecurity levy and regulatory measures governing electronic transactions in Nigeria. Whether through legal avenues or dialogue with relevant authorities, ensuring transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in policymaking processes remains essential for fostering trust, promoting economic growth, and safeguarding national security in an increasingly digital world. Agbakoba said the imposition of the levy is unconstitutional and not a “good idea”.

“It is not a good idea at all. I believe it is a good idea to have a cybersecurity act so that we can deal with cybercrime. However, it is not a good idea to create a fund for which the national security adviser will be entitled to deploy when that is contrary to what the constitution prescribes,” he said.

“So, I am going to court to challenge the imposition by the CBN on levies on the banks which will amount to the banks paying about N3 trillion a year.”

“That is unconstitutional because what the constitution says is that everything concerning revenue, whether it is tax or non-tax revenue such as the levy in the cybersecurity act, must pass through the federation account for it to now be appropriated by the national assembly.”

“So, if the same national assembly makes a law bypassing the appropriation process and putting money in the hands of an agency, that is unconstitutional.”

Agbakoba says the federal government is always broke because most of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are appropriating and disbursing to themselves monies that should go into the federation account.

“It goes back to when Nigeria was always having a deficit budget. Many of the MDAs bypass the federation account and collect monies directly. The number one culprit is the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC)”.

The NNPC collects so much trillions and then spends so much trillions and then gives pocket money to the federal government. That is very wrong.

“Section 162 of the constitution says that every resource of the federal government must be paid into the federation account before it is disbursed. So, the NNPC is spending money without the appropriation of the national assembly”.

“The cybersecurity fund will be spent without the national assembly’s appropriation. It is a sorry thing that the very national assembly that should understand that all revenue must pass through the federation account, are the ones passing laws bypassing the process”.

“We talk of Nigeria being poor, whereas, we have over 300 agencies in Nigeria appropriating monies to themselves. Nigeria customs does that, the same with NIMASA, TETFUND, Police Fund, ETF and others.”

“That is why the federal government is broke because these agencies are taking all the money. The government sits down waiting for money to come but the agencies have taken everything.”

“It is something that I think ought to be challenged because the federal government is now dispossessed of revenue that can be used to build roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and create employment. Very few agencies take 80 percent of our money”.