Financial industry stakeholders at the weekend described as illegal the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s directive to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to scrutinise social media presence of their customers.
The directive contained in a recent Customer Due Diligence Regulations, 2023 signed by the Director, Financial Policy and Regulations Department of the CBN, Chibuzo Efobi was tagged as a breach of customers’ fundamental right. The apex bank had directed all DMBs to obtain comprehensive information about their customers, including their social media handles, stressing that henceforth commercial banks must obtain social media handles and digital identification of customers as a mandatory Know Your Customer (KYC) policy in the financial services sector.
The CBN had said the directive was targeted at strengthening the fight against financial crimes as contained in its Customer Due Diligence Regulations 2023 report.
It said that financial institutions operating under the regulatory purview of the CBN were now obligated to collect and verify customers’ social media handles as part of their KYC process.
It said that the requirement applied to both individuals and legal entities, and sought to enhance the accuracy and depth of customer identification.
This was coming as the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC), said the directive was against the law.
According to the National Commissioner of the NDPC, Vincent Olatunji, the directive by the CBN is illegal and against the Nigerian Data Protection Act (NDPA) recently signed by President Bola Tinubu.
Olatunji, who said this in a statement issued by NDPC’s spokesperson, Itunu Dosekun, said that the commission was already engaging the CBN on the issue.
“The whole idea of this law is to protect the rights, the interests of Nigerians who are data subjects.
“We are already engaging with the CBN to let them know that what they have done is against the law because there are basic principles you must meet when you want to collect citizens’ data.
“There is data minimisation, meaning you do not collect data beyond the purpose for which it was intended,” he said.
Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), an NGO, described the directive as unlawful and a violation of Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy.
In a statement issued by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP called on the CBN Acting Governor, Folashodun Shonubi, to remove the social media directive from the regulations.
He said that the mandatory requirement of social media handles or addresses of customers did not serve any legitimate aim.
According to him, such information can be used to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the customers’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy.