The recent announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) mandating financial institutions to collect and verify customers’ social media handles has received mixed reactions from the public. While the CBN claims the initiative is a move towards strengthening compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CFT) provisions, it also raises serious concerns about the violation of Nigerians’ rights and potential adverse effects on their freedom.
Here are nine points to explain how this new regulation impacts Nigerians negatively:
- The collection of personal social media handles constitutes a violation of Nigerians’ privacy rights as it allows financial institutions to access personal information beyond what is necessary for banking purposes. For instance, someone’s religious or political affiliation should not be accessed by banks as part of their KYC verification process.
- This regulation would require Nigerians to give up personal data that can be used for surveillance purposes without their consent. Given past cases of government surveillance on its citizens, there is no guarantee that such data wouldn’t be abused.
- Social media platforms are channels for free expression, and obtaining Nigerians’ social media handles could potentially stifle their freedom of expression. For instance, users who feel that their posts may be perceived as controversial or critical of the government may refrain from expressing their opinions, leading to a chilling effect on free speech.
- Collecting social media handles will give authorities a broader scope to monitor Nigerians’ online activities, which largely threatens political dissent and activism. This could also lead to the persecution of individuals viewed as opposition figures.
- The regulation could result in the unjust targeting of individuals and groups who are critical of the government and its policies. For instance, Nigerians who express their dissatisfaction in the government through social media may be targeted by government authorities leading to threats and persecution.
- The regulation creates the potential for misuse of data by both the government and third parties, which could result in identity theft, cyberattacks, and other malicious activities. This could lead to a breach of citizens’ privacy and security.
- The collection of social media handles may perpetuate existing biases and prejudices that exist in the financial sector, which could impact the ability of certain groups to access financial services. For instance, groups that are historically discriminated against may find it difficult to access financial services due to perceived risks and biases.
- There is a risk that the regulation could be used to curtail the freedom of the press and restrict journalists’ ability to report on the government’s activities. This could result in a partial or complete shutdown of online and social media platforms, leading to the loss of free press and the suppression of information.
- The regulation could also have economic implications, which may lead to decreased foreign investment, reduced innovation, and stifle entrepreneurship. Nigerians may refrain from using social media platforms or may be reluctant to invest in new ventures due to concerns over their privacy and security.
In conclusion, while the CBN claims its new regulation is intended to curb money laundering and terrorism financing, its implications raise a lot of red flags about the breach of Nigerians’ digital rights and potential adverse effects on their freedom and privacy.
The collection of social media handles creates a surveillance state that is contrary to the values of a democratic society and is a cause for concern to Nigerians.