The Cybersecurity Tax and the Burden on the People by Okoh Aihe


In this part of the world, there’s always something new to discuss. Whether it’s the persistent fuel queues despite the removal of subsidies almost a year ago, the escalating electricity tariffs, the exorbitant price of rice, or the Naira’s resilience against Central Bank interventions, there’s no shortage of topics that have evolved into national challenges due to our failure to address them promptly.

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Every week seems to bring a new irritation, leaving the people bewildered and struggling to respond sensibly. Last week’s addition to the chaos was the introduction of a 0.5 percent Cybersecurity Tax, mandated by the Central Bank for every electronic transaction, effective immediately. The collected funds are earmarked for the National Cybersecurity Fund (NCF), managed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), pursuant to the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) (amendment) Act 2024.

While investing in cybersecurity is crucial, the abruptness of this tax imposition has sparked widespread discontent. The fact that cybersecurity falls under the purview of the National Security Adviser adds an aura of importance to the matter, emphasizing its critical nature in safeguarding against cyber threats that could disrupt various sectors, from finance to transportation and public utilities.

However, the timing and approach to implementing this tax raise eyebrows. Rather than creatively allocating resources, the burden has been shifted onto the already financially strained populace. The outcry against excessive taxation echoes the biblical tale of Solomon and his son Rehoboam, whose heavy tax policies led to dire consequences.

Despite assurances from some quarters, including the House of Representatives, that the Central Bank’s directive should be rescinded, concerns persist. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), among others, have condemned the tax as insensitive and potentially detrimental to financial inclusion efforts.

Critics argue that the levy’s implementation could stifle economic growth and exacerbate the hardships faced by ordinary citizens, who are already grappling with skyrocketing living costs. While the intention may be to target businesses, the reality is that the burden ultimately trickles down to the average Nigerian.

Fortunately, President Bola Tinubu’s decision to suspend the levy demonstrates responsive leadership. It’s a step towards alleviating the people’s burdens and restoring confidence in governance. After all, the buck stops on his table, and decisive action is needed to address the nation’s growing list of grievances.

In conclusion, the Cybersecurity Tax debacle is emblematic of the challenges facing ordinary Nigerians. With mounting economic pressures and a barrage of taxes, the need for empathetic and proactive leadership has never been more apparent. It’s time for the government to prioritize the welfare of its citizens and chart a course towards sustainable prosperity.

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