Court Affirms Banks’ Right to Request Social Media Handles from Customers

Adewole Kehinde
4 Min Read
Court Affirms Banks' Right to Request Social Media Handles

A federal high court in Lagos has struck out a case against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regarding its directive requiring banks to collect and verify social media handles as part of their know-your-customer (KYC) requirement.

In June 2023, the apex bank issued the directive, aiming to prevent financial crime, terrorism, and to enhance the precision and thoroughness of customer identification.

Chris Eke, a customer represented by lawyer Olubunmi Abayomi-Olukunle, had filed suit number FHC/L/CS/1281/2023 in July 2023, arguing that the CBN’s directive infringed upon constitutional rights, particularly section 37 of the 1999 constitution.

Presiding judge Nnamdi Dimgba struck out the suit filed by Eke, which sought a declaration that the regulation as contained in section 6(a)(iv) of the CBN (customer due diligence) Regulations, 2023, is “undemocratic, unconstitutional, null and void”.

The CBN responded to the suit by filing a notice of preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the suit and disagreeing with the claim of interference with the applicant’s private life.

In his judgment, Judge Dimgba held that the notice of preliminary objection had merit, subsequently striking out the suit. He ruled that providing a social media handle is equivalent to providing email and phone numbers for potential customers, and therefore, it does not violate the right to privacy.

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“First, the applicant claims 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 infringes on his right to privacy,” the judge said. “This claim is very ambitious and amounts to a very far throw. The said regulations are directed to and apply to financial institutions. It does not apply to private individuals such as the applicant.

“Even if, as appears to be argued, that the regulations itself would inevitably affect the applicant, this claim is speculative for the simple reason that in nowhere in the affidavit in support was it stated that the applicant operates an account with a financial institution and that the said institution had demanded his social media handle.”

The judge concluded that the suggestion of negative impact on the applicant was very speculative and unsupported by evidence of financial institutions implementing the regulation causing disruptions and inconvenience.

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Furthermore, Dimgba stated that if the applicant is “irritated by the requirement of the regulation,” he has the option to “refuse to do business with any bank insisting on the information as part of its social media handle, but to seek other alternatives”.

Dimgba emphasized that banks asking customers or potential clients to provide their social media handles is not a breach of privacy. He noted that a social media handle, being in the public space, can be accessed by everyone whether or not consent was obtained.

“The apprehension of the applicant of his social interactions being monitored is manifestly speculative in itself and rather incredulous to believe that the financial institutions have the luxury of time to concern itself with such frivolities,” the judge said.

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