• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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FG, cybersecurity levy and the debate thereof

Africa now very susceptible to cyber attacks — Report

The situation in Nigeria is tense. The masses are looking at their government with the tail of their tails. They are wondering if the government is not seeing that they are suffocating. But the government continues to roll out more policies it claims will help ease the pain in no time at all. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) seems to be telling Abuja that enough is enough. The NLC particularly takes exception to the new cybersecurity levy. From Labour’s body language, it promises to be a fight to the finish. Some other informed Nigerians, including private sector operators, have also weighed in on the new levy. Dave Umahi, minister of works, seems to be attracting enmity by virtue of his utterances, not so much about his work. We can only advise him to “minister well.”

“But the NLC strongly believed that the new levy, if implemented, would exacerbate the financial strain already faced by the populace.”

Why Umahi must minister well

There is so much mention of Dave Umahi, a former governor of Ebonyi State and current minister of works, on traditional and social media platforms these days.

Those headlines and the stories are not so much about the great work he is doing on his beat. They border on his utterances that many people speak in tandem, saying that they are not honourable enough but “unminister-like.”

Recently, the minister reportedly threatened to send locals to beat up a contractor. He has been combative with a number of contractors. But many believe that he can still achieve a lot without rolling up his sleeves against contractors.

Read also: Coastal Highway: Nothing will stop govt from claiming right of way—Umahi insists

His attitude towards an innocent inquiry by an Arise Television correspondent was also a minus. He should have known that he was on camera and that his utterances would go viral in this dispensation called Global Village.

The minister also tried to give the entire South East a bad name by alleging that Peter Obi’s observation on the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway project was inciting.

A minister of his standing ought to know that, given the times Nigeria is in, certain utterances would only engender more strife and exacerbate the already existing tension in society.

He also attracted the ire of communities located along the right-of-way of the project when he referred to their ancestral villages as shanties. The communities took him on, asking why he chose the appellation “shanties” just because skyscrapers were not built there.

In the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida regime, there were some personalities whose names sent cold chills down the spines of many Nigerians. Before he named them as members of his cabinet, not many Nigerians had heard about Mamman Kontagora, Mohammed Yahaya, Mamman Vatsa, Gado Nasko, Domkat Bali, Joshua Dogonyaro, and some others. They did their bit and have since exited the stage.

In the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) era, one man featured prominently. He was a go-to person any time the party needed a difficult task to be executed. His name was Tony Anenih.

He was nicknamed “Mr. Fix It,” and he walked with a swagger. Incidentally, he was also a minister of works in that dispensation. Where is Anenih today? So, one day, Umahi and his work as a minister would together become past tense.

Umahi must understand that the world is a stage. Today, he is there; tomorrow, someone else will be there. What is it that he has seen that appears to make him see his image as larger-than-life? Some men have had it and later confessed that it was nothing but a “crown of thorns.” Power is transient.

One thing about those who go about their job in the manner Umahi does is that those they think they are pleasing by throwing a javelin at their own kit and kin are always perplexed, and in their secret chambers, they wonder what kind of people they are.

Umahi may find out in the end that he, like Achebe’s Okonkwo in the midst of titled men in Umuofia, is alone and that he only played the role of a cannon fodder.

He should do well to glean from the advice of Jerry Gana many years ago.

Gana was the director of the Mass Mobilisation for Social Justice and Economic Recovery, popularly known as MAMSER, during the military regime of President Babangida.

He later became Minister of Information and Culture under General Sani Abacha, Minister of Corporation and Integration in Africa under Olusegun Obasanjo, and then Minister of Information and National Orientation.

In his MAMSER days in the 90s, Gana, in his effort to encourage every citizen to take whatever they do as their profession or career seriously, revelled in phrases that became a reference point.

He said, “If you are a farmer, farm well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If you are a carpenter, carpenter well, and if you are a commander-in-chief, chiefly command well.”

It is therefore apt to call the attention of Umahi to that piece of advice so that he should, as a minister, “minister well.”

Only then would his work as a minister, including his utterances, stand the test of time and not be moth-eaten.

Read also: FG is yet to call us for new minimum wage – TUC president

FG, the new minimum wage, the cybersecurity levy, and the debate thereof!

The federal government appears to be fighting many battles at the same time. From one policy to another, targeted at more belt-tightening, the Nigerian masses have continued to be at the receiving end.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has remained vehement that the recent announcement by the government of an increase in workers’ pay rise was deceptive, and the increment was paltry.

The Federal Government had on May Day approved an increase of between 25 percent and 35 percent in salary for civil servants on the remaining six consolidated salary structures.

But up until now, what the percentage amounted to in real figures has not been made public. But the NLC described the percentage increase as mischievous. It demanded N615,000 instead, as the new minimum wage, in line with the economic realities of today.

A few days ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced the introduction of a 0.005 percent cybersecurity levy on electronic transfers.

The CBN mandated banks and payment service operators to start charging a cybersecurity levy on transactions. It said that the deductions must begin in a matter of two weeks from the day of the circular.

But the NLC strongly believed that the new levy, if implemented, would exacerbate the financial strain already faced by the populace.

Joe Ajaero, president of the NLC, described the new levy as another anti-people policy of the government in the midst of excruciating economic hardship.

In what looked like a debate on the desirability or otherwise of the new levy, some private sector operators yesterday aired their individual views on the issue.

For easy understanding of the conversation, they have been designated as Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr. C.

Below is their take:

Mr. A: “There are several countries that have implemented a cybersecurity levy or tax on organisations to fund national cybersecurity initiatives and protect against cyber threats. Here are a few examples:

One: Singapore introduced the Cybersecurity Act in 2018, which includes a levy on designated critical information infrastructure (CII) owners to fund cybersecurity initiatives.

Two: Australia implemented the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC) levy in 2017, which requires organisations to contribute a portion of their revenue to fund cybersecurity research and development.

Three: The United Kingdom introduced the UK Cyber Security Council’s (UKCSC) Cybersecurity Skills Levy in 2020, which requires organisations to contribute to a fund that supports cybersecurity training and development programmes.

Four: India proposed a cybersecurity levy on companies in the 2022 budget to fund cybersecurity initiatives and strengthen the country’s cyber infrastructure.

“These countries are leveraging a cybersecurity levy to enhance national cybersecurity capabilities, protect critical infrastructure, and promote a safer digital environment.”

Mr. B, in response, said, “Thank you for this. It’s useful information. I have a few questions. Were the levies imposed on organisations or on transactions? How many other levies and taxes do organisations and citizens pay? Is there transparency about how the levies and taxes are utilised?”

According to him, “First, which country imposes this type of levy on customers, knowing that the first task of a credible government is the maintenance of law, order, and physical security? Second, there is indeed a national cybersecurity policy that was developed by the Office of the NSA a few years ago. Is there equally a national cybersecurity working group that has developed standards that all companies operating in or with critical national infrastructure (financial services, telecoms, and electricity) must meet? How far has that policy gone in its implementation?

“If there are standards, have corporate groups and entities been working to meet these standards? If not, why not? Indeed, has the sensitive technical term ‘critical national infrastructure’ been defined by anyone with the responsibility to do so?

“Finally, who gets to keep (pocket, I should say) takings from this levy? Banks? FG? A cybersecurity fund? If the latter, which law established it? If either of the first two, for what purpose and under whose oversight? I’d like to know the answers to these questions. Until then, this cybersecurity levy, to my mind, is a backdoor fiscal imposition.”

Mr. C, in his considered view, said: “As a way to raise revenue, I cannot query the government in their methods. However, if the government specifies a tax for a particular purpose, then you have to query its relevance. The countries in the list you (Mr. A) mentioned have reached the level of maturity in their technology development where a cybersecurity levy may make sense. I don’t think Nigeria, especially the government, has the basic tech infrastructure on which a cybersecurity levy will have any impact. Lots of our security agencies are still struggling to implement a secure mail and information management system. The reason there are as many leaks in government as there are.”