CBN Urged to Revoke Request for Customers’ Social Media Handles

The request made by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to obtain customer information such as social media handles for further identification purposes has faced criticism and calls for its withdrawal. In a recent directive, the CBN instructed banks and financial institutions to gather social media handles, residential addresses, Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), email addresses, telephone numbers, places of birth, and other personal details of their customers. This move is part of the CBN’s efforts to strengthen the identification process within the banking system, as outlined in the ‘Central Bank of Nigeria (Customer Due Diligence) Regulations, 2023′ document.

However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has expressed concerns over the CBN’s directive and urged the Acting Governor, Folashodun Shonubi, to retract the circular that contains the directive. In a letter dated June 24, 2023, SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, requested the CBN to remove the unlawful provisions in the regulations that require banks to collect customers’ social media handles for identification purposes.

SERAP argues that these provisions violate Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and are inconsistent with the rule of law. The group emphasizes that the CBN should uphold legal requirements and standards while fulfilling its statutory functions, rather than undermining or violating them. SERAP also points out that such mandatory requirements could impede Nigerians from freely exercising their online rights and potentially lead to misuse of the collected information for unlawful purposes, including political motives.

SERAP expects a response from the CBN within three days of receiving or publishing the letter. If the requested measures are not taken, SERAP states its intention to take legal action to compel compliance in the public interest. The group highlights that the CBN’s regulations and directive would unduly restrict constitutional and international rights, including freedom of expression, privacy, and victims’ right to justice and remedies.

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Moreover, SERAP contends that requiring social media handles or addresses as a means of identification would disproportionately hinder Nigerians’ enjoyment of their rights to freedom of expression and privacy online. The organization asserts that the CBN must justify any restrictions on these rights, as stipulated by the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights treaties. It argues that alternative means of identification, such as passports, driver’s licenses, Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), and Tax Identification Numbers (TIN), already exist and fulfill the necessary requirements. Therefore, SERAP deems the additional requirement of social media details as unnecessary, disproportionate, and lacking in legality, necessity, and proportionality.

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