Abuja, Nigeria – In a recent plenary session, the House of Representatives has called upon the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to temporarily suspend the implementation of a directive that mandates banks to collect and verify customers’ social media handles. The motion, sponsored by nine lawmakers, received unanimous approval during Tuesday’s session.

The CBN had issued guidelines in June, stating that the purpose of the directive was to enhance banks’ know-your-customer (KYC) procedures and combat financial crimes and terrorism. The regulation aimed to empower financial institutions to gather information about customers’ online presence and activities, enabling them to better assess potential risks related to money laundering, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing.

During the debate on the motion, Representative Kelechi Nwogu from Rivers highlighted concerns regarding the potential infringement of privacy rights protected under Section 37 of the constitution. While acknowledging the intention behind the policy, Nwogu argued that it was unnecessary and could burden Nigerian citizens, particularly during a challenging period.

He emphasized that financial institutions already possess ample customer identification measures, such as names, telephone numbers, passport photographs, emails, national identification numbers (NIN), biometric verification numbers (BVN), and utility bills. Nwogu suggested that more effective methods for combating money laundering and terrorism financing involve leveraging existing law enforcement agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), intelligence agencies, and crime tracking agencies.

Nwogu further highlighted the potential negative impact of the directive on traders who do not utilize social media platforms. He argued that implementing the policy could impose “untold hardships” on millions of Nigerians, especially those residing in rural areas or with limited literacy, who lack social media handles.

Recognizing the potential implications, Speaker of the House, Tajudeen Abbas, expressed the unanimous support for revisiting and halting the CBN’s directive. The aim is to alleviate the hardships faced by Nigerian citizens. The House of Representatives has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria to reconsider the policy in light of the concerns raised.

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