SERAP Sues CBN Over ‘Unlawful Regulations On Customers’ Social Media Handles

The Central Bank of Nigeria has been sued by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project for ordering banks to gather data on clients’ social media handles for identification purposes.

SERAP claimed it filed a complaint seeking an order of mandamus to compel CBN to revoke its directive and remove the terms of Section 6 of its Customer Due Diligence Regulations, 2023, in a press release issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

According to SERAP, the directive and its provisions are incompatible with both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Nigerian Constitution.

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.”

The date for the hearing of the suit has not been scheduled yet, at the time of filing this report.

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