The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over “the failure to delete the patently unlawful provisions in the Central Bank of Nigeria (Customer Due Diligence) Regulations directing banks to obtain information on customers’ social media handles for the purpose of identification.”
The CBN 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 the suit with number FHC/L/CS/1410/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Central Bank of Nigeria to withdraw its directive dated 20th June, 2023 to banks and other financial institutions to obtain information from customers’ social media handles.”
SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel the CBN to delete the unlawful provisions of Section 6 of its Customer Due Diligence Regulations, 2023 for being inconsistent with Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
Also, the organisation is seeking: “an order restraining the CBN from carrying out or giving effect to the unlawful provisions of Section 6 of its Customer Due Diligence Regulations, 2023 directing banks and other financial institutions to obtain information from customers’ social media handles.”
In the suit, SERAP argues that: “The mandatory requirement of social media handles or addresses of customers does not serve any legitimate aim. Such information may be used to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.”
“Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the CBN will implement and enforce the unlawful directive in contravention of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy,” it also said.
SERAP noted: “There are other means of identification such as passport, driver’s licence, Bank Verification Number (BVN), and Tax Identification Number (TIN), which banks and other financial institutions already require their customers to provide.
“The additional requirement of obtaining details of a customer’s social media handle or address fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality.
“The facts that there are sufficient means of identification for CBN, banks and other financial institutions to rely on to meet the requirement of Know Your Customer also heighten concerns of overreach, and confer far-reaching discretion on banks and financial institutions.”
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.”
“The Nigerian Constitution guarantees in Section 39 the right to freedom of expression and in Section 37, the right to privacy,” it said.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.