Judge rules CBN can ask for social media handle as part of KYC, “same genre as the provision of email address, phone number”s

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has struck out a suit challenging a section of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)Customer Due Diligence Regulations 2023. 

The Section in dispute is Section 6(a)(iv) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Customer Due Diligence) Regulations, 2023, which mandates banks to collect and verify customers’ social media handles as part of their Know-Your-Customer process. 

The suit was filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Chris Eke, against the CBN. 

He sought a  declaration holding that the said regulation is unconstitutional and a contravention of Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution which touches on the protection of the privacy of citizens. 

But the CBN urged the court to dismiss the application for being incompetent. 

What the judge said 

In his verdict on Wednesday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba held that the applicant made ambitious claims when he submitted that the requirements on the CBN Regulations for financial institutions to request and collect the social media handle of its customers as part of KYC infringed on his right to privacy. 

” The said Regulations are directed to and apply to financial institutions.  It does not apply to private individuals such as the Applicant,” Dimgba said. 

The judge also stated that the lawyer made no deposition to the effect that any financial institution had begun to implement the said regulation thereby creating disruptions and inconvenience against the general population. 

“Fourthly, and for all it is worth, I do not see how asking a banking or potential banking customer to provide his social media handle can ever amount to a breach of privacy. 

“Granted that Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides inter alia: “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected. 

“My view is that the provision of a social media handle is of the same genre as the provision of email address, phone numbers and other means by which a potential customer of a bank can be contacted,” Dimgba said. 

The judge subsequently struck out the suit while uploading the preliminary objection of the CBN legal team.

In essence, Dimgba’s viewpoint is that providing a social media handle to a bank (or any other entity) should be viewed similarly to providing an email address or phone number.

It implies that these forms of communication are personal and should be afforded privacy protections under the law.

This interpretation suggests that the constitution’s privacy guarantees evolve to include new forms of communication technology, reflecting the changing nature of how people interact and share personal information.

More insight 

Nairametrics previously reported that in 2023, the CBN released its Customer Due Diligence Regulations 2023 as part of its moves  against financial crimes. 

  • Under section 6 (IV) of the new regulation, financial institutions operating under the regulatory purview of the CBN are now obligated to collect and verify customers’ social media handles as part of their KYC process. 
  • The CBN is Nigeria’s apex financial regulatory agency.