By Mustapha Salisu
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has voiced its strong opposition to the recent directive issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which mandates banks and financial institutions to collect the social media profiles of their customers.
In a press statement signed by CITAD’s Executive Director, Engr. Y. Z. Ya’u, the organization highlighted concerns regarding privacy and digital rights infringement.
Ya’u emphasized that the Data Protection Act, recently signed into law by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, aims to protect the privacy and personal data of citizens.
However, the CBN directive contradicts the objectives of this law. The organization questioned the value that social media handles would add to a customer’s portfolio, considering that banks already possess unique identifiers such as the National Identity Number (NIM), biometric details, emails, and phone numbers.
Furthermore, CITAD’s Executive Director expressed concern over the mandatory requirement for citizens to open social media accounts, even when they do not find them necessary.
He warned that this could potentially increase the number of financially excluded individuals, as those without social media accounts may be restricted from operating bank accounts.
He also stressed that the focus should be on promoting financial inclusion rather than penalizing free expression on social media platforms.
The CITAD executive director pointed out that the CBN’s directive appears to usurp the powers of the Nigeria Data Protection Commission, which is responsible for determining exemptions to the application of the Data Protection Act.
Y.Z also raised concerns about the potential misuse of the collected data by other parties and questioned the lack of clarity regarding data sharing and retention periods.
Referring to Article 21 of the Data Protection Act, Ya’u emphasized that banks, as data controllers, must inform customers about the lawful basis for collecting personal data, the recipients or categories of recipients of the data, and the retention period. Neither the banks nor the CBN adequately addressed these provisions.
The ED also expressed concerns about the potential misuse of customers’ information, citing the experiences of activists during the EndSars protests. “CITAD sees this directive as a breach of digital rights and privacy” he said
CITAD according Yau’u strongly condemned the CBN directive as suspect and anti-democratic. The Centre is calling for the immediate withdrawal of the directive and urged Nigerians, civil society organizations, and digital rights activists to speak out against this policy.
They also called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to provide moral leadership in protecting citizens’ digital rights and freedoms by demanding that the CBN does not abuse the right to privacy.