Court backs CBN, directs banks to collect customer’s social media handles

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The Federal High Court, Lagos has upheld a new Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regulation which requires financial institutions to demand and collect the social media handles of their customers, as part of the standard Know-Your-Customer procedure.

In a ruling on Thursday, May 16, the presiding judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said the regulation is not a breach of the right to privacy of bank customers.

Justice Dimgba struck out a suit filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Chris Eke, seeking a declaration that the regulation as contained in Section 6(a)(iv) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Customer Due Diligence) Regulations, 2023.

Eke said the new CBN regulation is undemocratic, unconstitutional, null and void, to the extent of its inconsistency with Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The applicant had asked the court, to grant an order of perpetual injunction, restraining CBN from enforcing the regulation which requires financial institutions, to request customers’ social media handles as part of normal bank customer due diligence requirements.

The CBN in its response to the suit, filed a notice of preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the suit. The apex bank also disagreed that the said regulation constitutes any interference with the private life of the applicant, as claimed.

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In his judgment, Justice Dimgba held that the notice of preliminary objection had merit, and he subsequently struck out the suit.

The judge said in his view, the provision of a social media handle is the same as the provision of email address, phone numbers and other means by which a potential customer of a bank can be contacted and or due diligence, to determine if the person is a fit and proper person for the bank to do business with, and as such, the regulation does not amount to an infringement on the right to privacy.

According to Justice Dimgba, the essence of having a social media account was for one to be publicly visible communication-wise, and it would be highly unreasonable to hold the CBN in breach of privacy for it.

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