Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a legal suit against the Central Bank of Nigeria for instructing financial institutions to collect customers’ social media handles as part of their identification process.
Recall that the CBN had last month issued a Circular mandating banks and other financial institutions to implement and comply with the mandatory provisions on customers’ social media handles in the CBN Regulations.
In a press statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare,
SERAP said the lawsuit seeks to obtain an order of mandamus compelling the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to withdraw its directive and eliminate the provisions of Section 6 from its Customer Due Diligence Regulations of 2023.
SERAP believes that the directive and provisions are inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
SERAP is also seeking an order to stop the CBN from implementing the provisions of Section 6 of its Customer Due Diligence Regulations, 2023, which mandates banks and other financial institutions to obtain information on customers’ social media handles.
SERAP argues that such a requirement does not serve any legitimate aim and may be used to restrict citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy. The organisation believes that without the relief sought, the CBN will enforce the unlawful directive, which will be a violation of citizens’ rights.
According to SERAP, there are other means of identification, such as passports, driver’s licence, Bank Verification Number, and Tax Identification Number, which banks and other financial institutions already require their customers to provide.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Blessing Ogwuche, read in part: “Obtaining information on customers’ social media handles or addresses as means of identification is more intrusive than necessary.”
“According to Section 6(a)(iv) of the CBN Regulations, banks and other financial institutions ‘shall identify their customer and obtain information on the social media handle of the customer.’ Section 6(b)(iii) contains similar provisions.”
“The purported mandatory requirement would inhibit Nigerians from freely exercising their human rights online. If obtained, such information may also be misused for political and other unlawful purposes.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.