Nigeria’s financial regulatory body, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiated a policy which requires customers to submit their social media handles for identification. It also requested that banking institutions should also get customer’s e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and residential addresses as if banks do not have all these details through their KYCs (Know Your Customers). They justified their demand by tagging it “Central Bank of Nigeria Customer Due Diligence Regulation 2023” which they said is a “due diligence measure” to check money laundering and terrorism financing.

They further stated that these demands are measures to further their compliance with relevant provisions of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (MLPPA), 2022, Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (TPPA), 2022, Central Bank of Nigeria (Anti Money Laundering, Combating the Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Financial Institutions) Regulations, 2022 (CBN AML, CFT and CPF Regulations) and international best practices amongst others.

The whole financial jargons packaged by the CBN to legitimize their demands may sound reasonable and logical, however, it is a facade which seeks to cover the intrusive intentions of the Central Bank and by extension the policy of the nascent government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Nigerians have been compelled by the CBN to submit all manner of data. We should be asking the CBN how the data submitted so far has been utilized. Nigerian institutions generally have become experts in data acquisition but have failed woefully in the use of the data gathered so far in improving the lives of Nigerians.

More than a decade ago, the CBN began with the change of regular account numbers to what they called the NUBAN, then another policy came compelling Nigerians to get what they called the Bank Verification Number (BVN), then the Tax Identification Numbers (TIN). Need I mention other data which the CBN extracted from customers through the banks like email addresses, phone numbers, residential addresses etc.

Interestingly and unfortunately, the CBN is not satisfied with all these data that are already in their possession, they are hungry for more! They want Nigerians to submit their social media handles! If I may ask, for what exactly? Does the government of the day intend to surreptitiously gag Nigerians from the use of social media to express themselves? Such surreptitious demands under any guise should be rejected by the civil society, human rights organizations and indeed all Nigerian. We cannot afford to continuously sleep over our rights under surreptitious demands that have been tagged “regulatory”.

The CBN in their new regulation, Section 6(a)(iv) to be precise states that citizens should be identified by their social media handles. This is not only an obnoxious provision but a gross infringement on the fundamental human right of Nigerians; our right to freedom of expression and privacy. Section 39 and section 37 of the 1999 constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian citizen to freedom of expression and privacy. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also guarantee the right to freedom of expression. Article 17 of the Covenant also guarantees the right to privacy.

My question then is, is the CBN Governor ignorant of these laws? I presume that think that they will force every policy down the throat of Nigerians without any form of resistance from Nigerians who use the banks.

Such violating and intrusive policies can only come into force in undemocratic and despotic states where the word of the dictator is law but in a democratic dispensation there should not be any accommodation for such infringements on the fundamental rights of Nigerians else it will be resisted. No organization or establishment should compel citizens to submit their social media handles as a requirement for financial services.

The acting CBN Governor should not commence his leadership of the apex institution on a controversial note by making policies that are anti-populist rather he should focus on reviving the comatose and depressed Nigerian economy which should be his litmus test at point of our economic quagmire.

Nnamdi Abana is a Political Scientist, he writes in from Abuja, Nigeria.

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