Nigerians Cry Out Over Banks’ Multiple Charges, Levies

By Lateef Adegbite  And Suleiman Umaru

 President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state, may have sent a signal to Nigerians on assumption of office on May 29, 2023, that he will make their Yoke heavier that former President had done in his eight years in office.

The former Lagos state governor had given an insight to Nigerians what to expect from his Administration when he removed petrol subsidy and unified the Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market, AFEM ,and the Parallel, popular, Black Market exchange rate which had pushed up the prices of food items, imported goods and services , thus increasing the hardship in the country.  

Aeniran: dg, NBS

The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, under the close watch of, Semiu Adeyemi Adeniran, may have painted a gory image of the situation when he stated that between May 29, 2023 and now, the cost of food items, particular, staple food, has witnessed a significant surge, driven by serious factors like the depreciation of the naira, at both the AFEM and the Parallel foreign Exchange Market., regional conflicts and rising transportation costs.

 The NBS, may have indicted the Tinubu’s Administration for making matters worse for individual and Corporate Organisations when it stated that certain food items, across the country have experienced astonishing hikes of over 100%

Many had expected the Nigerian President  to lighten the yoke of the citizenry and the Corporate Organisations which are currently passing through heavy burdens over the various taxes and levies been introduced  by  past and present government including  the banks  on customers which are  eating into their finances.

Cardoso: CBN Governor, introduced 0.5% cybersecurity Levy

  The recent introduction of  the 0.5% of the value  of all electronic transactions, labelled  cyber security  levy by Olayemi Michael Cardoso Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, governor, believed to be acting out a script  of the Nigerian President , who was said to have a given approval  to the recommendations of  Nuhu Ribadu, a-one time Chairman, Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC and now, National Security Adviser , NSA,    whose office manages the country cyber security efforts and the National  Cyber Security Fund, NCF.

 Take  for instance  the Nigerian  Inter-bank settlement system, BIBSS,  charge ,7% Value Added Tax,  VAT, and  Stamp duties of between  0.075 to 1.5% , depending on the contract,  which are collected by the banks from  individuals and Corporate bodies on behalf of the Federal Inland Revenue Services , FIRS, an agency of government.  Note that banks also have their own charges imposed on their customers like the maintenance  fee and SMS fees.

Many had expected the Former Lagos state governor to lighten the burden for Nigerians instead he has added to the yoke without blinking that people are comparing  his almost one year in office and the eight years in office of Buhari, claiming that life was much better under the former Katsina state born Nigerian President  than now.

The Nigerian President , who is an  apostle of Taxes and levies, as a way  to generate  revenue to run the government may have  appended his Presidential signature  to collect the cyber security levy  based on the passage of  2024 Cybercrime  Prohibition , Prevention  Amendment Bill  by the National  Assembly  which has been signed into Law by  the Nigerian  President last February.

In introducing the new levy, the CBN, was said to have directed the Money Deposit Banks, MDB, to impose  0.5%  levy on some electronic transactions, to be transmitted to the office of the NSA, for the purpose of cyber security. Going by the terms of the new CBN levy, which has the backing of the Nigerian President, the levy is imposed on the initiator of the transaction and not the receiver.  The apex Bank Authorities were said to have made it clear that the deducted amount shall be reflected in the customer’s account with the narration,’’ cyber security levy’’. The CBN, Authorities had said that the levy shall be applied at the point of the electronic transfer origination, then deducted and transmitted by the Bank to the NSA’s office. 

The CBN, may have given a soft landing to some   accounts holders in the Banks when it stated that a bank transfer between two customers of the same bank    or a transfer of funds by an account holder of one bank to another one of his accounts in another bank will not be charged the cyber security levy.

There are indications that there are other exemptions which includes loans disbursements and repayments, salary payments, other financial institutions instructions to their correspondent banks, Interbank placements and Banks’ ‘transfer to another bank. Other exemptions include  IInter-branch transfers within a bank,  cheque clearing and settlements,  Letters of credit, LC,  Banks’  recapitalization related funding transactions ,limited to bulk  funds  movement  from collection accounts,  savings and deposits, including  transactions  involving  long-term investments  such as treasury  Bills, Bonds,  and Commercial papers. 

This is in addition to Government Social Welfare Programmes, including donations  to registered  non- profit  organisations and charities,  Educational Institutions transactions and other transactions involving schools, universities,  and other educational institution and  transactions  involving  banks ‘ internal accounts. This includes suspense accounts, clearing accounts, profit and loss accounts, inter-branch accounts, reserve account, nostro and Vostro accounts and escrow accounts.   

Activists had said that the introduction of the new levy by the CBN, to be collected by the banks    gives an insight of more levies that will be introduced by present  Tinubu’s Administration before the expiration of his first  term in office, on May 29, 2027, without giving a damn to people’s opposition to it.

They  argued that  the latest CBN levy which has the backing of the Tinubu,   would go a long way to slow whatever progress  the Administration  may claim to have achieved over the last 11 months  in the race to financial inclusion. The aActivists further noted that the multiplicity of charges and levies will discourage more Nigerians  from  patronsing the  Banks to keep their idle funds .  

They were said to have urged the President to immediately withdraw the grossly unlawful CBN directive and stop the Banks from implementing to avoid throwing the country into another round of financial crisis.

Prof. Dikwa asked Tinubu to suspend the CBN cyber security Levy to ease the suffering of the people

 Khlifa Dikwa, a Professor,   and the Dean of Borno Elders Forum, who could not understand the basis for the CBN introduction of the 0.5% cyber security levy on electronic transactions was said to asked the Nigerian President to suspend the implementation of the new policy by the banks.

Hear him: This is not the time for such a policy to be introduced in the country. He may have alluded to intolerable hardship currently being experience by the people, meaning that the people may be pushed to the wall of taking unimaginable action that may be difficult to control by the security agencies operatives as it will spread like wild fire.

Appearing on Channels Television on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, Prof. Dikwa, who could not his feelings had said that as a matter of fact the facial expression on the faces of Nigerians this time around speaks volume. 

The members of the House of Representatives appears to have proved that they are on the side of the public as they have asked the CBN, which has the backing of the President, ‘’to withdraw the circular directing the Financial Institutions operating in the country to commence implementation of the 0.5% cyber security levy’’, describing it as’’ ambiguous and issue a more understandable one ’’. The House had expressed worry around the different interpretations of the apex bank directive and the cyber security Act. Whether Cardoso, the CBN, governor will bow to the House Pressure to withdraw the cyber security Levy remains too be seen.  

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