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Court backs CBN, directs banks to collect customer’s social media handles

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The Federal High Court, Lagos has upheld a new Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regulation which requires financial institutions to demand and collect the social media handles of their customers, as part of the standard Know-Your-Customer procedure.

 

In a ruling on Thursday, May 16, the presiding judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said the regulation is not a breach of the right to privacy of bank customers.

 

Justice Dimgba struck out a suit filed by a Lagos-based lawyer, Chris Eke, seeking a declaration that the regulation as contained in Section 6(a)(iv) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Customer Due Diligence) Regulations, 2023.

 

Eke said the new CBN regulation is undemocratic, unconstitutional, null and void, to the extent of its inconsistency with Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

 

The applicant had asked the court, to grant an order of perpetual injunction, restraining CBN from enforcing the regulation which requires financial institutions, to request customers’ social media handles as part of normal bank customer due diligence requirements.

 

The CBN in its response to the suit, filed a notice of preliminary objection, challenging the competence of the suit. The apex bank also disagreed that the said regulation constitutes any interference with the private life of the applicant, as claimed.

 

In his judgment, Justice Dimgba held that the notice of preliminary objection had merit, and he subsequently struck out the suit.

 

The judge said in his view, the provision of a social media handle is the same as the provision of email address, phone numbers and other means by which a potential customer of a bank can be contacted and or due diligence, to determine if the person is a fit and proper person for the bank to do business with, and as such, the regulation does not amount to an infringement on the right to privacy.

 

According to Justice Dimgba, the essence of having a social media account was for one to be publicly visible communication-wise, and it would be highly unreasonable to hold the CBN in breach of privacy for it.

 

The judge held that: “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.”

 

“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. So the suggestion that he would be affected by this Regulation, albeit negatively, is very speculative and at large.

 

“Secondly, there is also no deposition to the effect that any financial institution had begun to implement this Regulation and that its implementation had begun to create disruptions and inconvenience against the general population, in which case one could infer that the suit should be legitimated as a public interest litigation.

 

“Thirdly, assuming even that the banks had begun to implement these regulations, the applicant assuming he maintained any bank accounts or sought to open one, but is being hindered or irritated by the requirement of the Regulation to avail his social media handle as part of KYC, the Applicant still had a choice, which is to refuse to do business with any bank insisting on the information as part of its social media handle, but to seek other alternatives.

 

“Fourthly, and for all it is worth, I do not see how asking a banking or potential banking customer to provide his social media handle can ever amount to a breach of privacy.

 

Granted that Section 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides inter alia: “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.

 

“My view is that the provision of a social media handle is of the same genre as the provision of email address, phone numbers and other means by which a potential customer of a bank can be contacted.

 

“Thus, it is clear from the face of the Regulations as set out above that email addresses, phone numbers and social media handles are all provided for under clause 6iv just to show that the aim was not to pry on anyone but rather to provide alternative ways by which a customer of the bank can be contacted, and or due diligence conducted on the person to determine if the person is a fit and proper person to extend banking services to.

 

“I do not see how this infringes on the right to privacy. I should even say that the essence of having a social media account was for one to be publicly visible communication-wise. It, therefore, appears quite ironic, though wryly, that one can suggest that asking for information about a social media handle with which the individual exposes and immerses himself or herself in the public, can amount to a violation of privacy rights, which rights itself is all about isolation of one from public glare.

 

“It is also to my knowledge that even in filling some business applications, personal information of this sort, is sometimes requested, and parties generally oblige. If it does not constitute a breach of privacy, why should it now?

 

“A social media handle is left at large for the world to see, being in the public space, everyone enjoys the liberty to have access to it whether or not consent was obtained. It would be highly unreasonable to hold the Respondent in breach of privacy for what other persons have access to.

 

“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.

 

“On the whole, if I did not sustain the NPO, I would have dismissed the suit for the reasons stated. But the NPO having been sustained, the suit is therefore hereby struck out.”

Business

Ecobank’s “Adire Lagos” Exhibition Kicks Off with Over 100 Exhibitors

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The annual Ecobank “Adire Lagos” exhibition has commenced with great enthusiasm, featuring over 100 exhibitors showcasing their Adire textiles.

 

The four-day event, held at the Ecobank Pan African Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, aims to promote culture, tourism, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) while leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

 

This year’s exhibition, the third in the series, has attracted international exhibitors like Adire Oodua, Tampoori, and Jide Batik, among others.

The event provides a platform for entrepreneurs, shoppers, and Adire enthusiasts to network and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Adire textile.

 

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ecobank Nigeria’s Executive Director, Commercial Banking, Kola Adeleke, reiterated the bank’s commitment to supporting the creative industry and MSMEs, with the goal of promoting local brands and facilitating international trade.

 

The exhibition has received widespread acclaim from exhibitors and attendees alike, solidifying Ecobank’s position as a key driver of tourism, culture, and the creative industries in Nigeria.

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Dangote Reveals Mafia’s Attempts to Sabotage $19bn Refinery

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Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, has disclosed that his $19 billion refinery project faced numerous sabotage attempts from the “oil mafia”.

 

Speaking at the Afreximbank annual meetings in Nassau, The Bahamas, Dangote revealed that he had repaid $2.4 billion of the $5.5 billion borrowed for the project.

 

Dangote stated that he was aware of potential resistance but underestimated the intensity of the opposition.

 

He likened the “oil mafia” to being stronger than the “drug mafia”, citing repeated attempts to disrupt the refinery’s construction.

 

Despite these challenges, Dangote remains determined, attributing his resilience to his lifelong fighting spirit.

 

He acknowledged that the transition from relying on imported fuel to local refining has been met with resistance from international oil companies (IOCs).

 

Dangote expressed confidence that the refinery, which has a capacity of 650,000 barrels per day, will ultimately succeed, benefiting Nigeria, the sub-region, and sub-Saharan Africa.

 

He views the current obstacles as temporary, stating, “We’ll get there.”

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Wema Bank Addresses False Information Alleging Impending License Seizure and Bank Closure

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In recent weeks, a wave of misinformation has targeted the Nigerian financial services industry, specifically alleging that several commercial banks, including Wema Bank, are at risk of losing their banking licenses and being closed. We categorically confirm that this claim is false and contrary to the reality of Wema Bank’s financial strength.

 

**The False Premise**

 

A statement, purportedly signed by the National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners/Federal Civil Service Pensioners (NUP/FCSP), Abuja Branch, claimed that Wema Bank is among the banks slated for impending license seizure by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The statement advised pensioners and the general public to close their Wema Bank accounts as a precaution against the alleged closures.

 

**The Truth**

 

Wema Bank is in robust financial health and at no risk of license seizure or closure. Our financial performance underscores our strength and stability, as affirmed by stakeholders and auditors at our 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM). Despite economic fluctuations in Nigeria, we are on course to meet the N200bn minimum capital requirement stipulated by the CBN for a commercial bank license with national authorization. Over the past months, we have raised an additional N40bn in fresh capital and are on track to meet the target within 18 months.

 

Our financial strength is demonstrated in our 2023 financial report and Q1 2023 financial results. Key highlights include:

 

– A 196% increase in Profit Before Tax (PBT) from N14.75bn to N43.59bn.

– A 220.4% increase in Profit After Tax (PAT) from N11.21bn to N33.66bn.

– A 70.63% increase in Gross Earnings from N132.30bn to N225.75bn.

– A 53.64% increase in Loans disbursed from N521.43bn to N801.10bn.

– A 26% increase in Capital Adequacy Ratio from N12.74bn to N16.04bn.

– A remarkable 220.53% increase in Earnings per share from N87.2 to N279.5.

 

Additionally, our Non-Performing Loan rate stands at 4.31%, one of the lowest in the industry. Our stable financial future has been verified by the Pan-African rating agency Agusto & Co, which recently upgraded our rating to Bbb+ with an ESG Score of 2 and a confirmation of a stable outlook. Despite financial headwinds, our Q1 2024 financial results indicate we are on track to surpass our 2023 results by the end of 2024.

 

Given our positive financial record and solid standing, the claims made are baseless and unfounded.

 

**Measures Taken**

 

We have petitioned security officials to investigate the Nigeria Union of Pensioners and will be taking legal action against the perpetrator(s) of this libelous statement.

 

Wema Bank remains committed to providing optimum returns for every stakeholder and will not condone the spread of false information that could cause public panic.

 

We assure our customers and stakeholders that Wema Bank is well-equipped to continue its operations as a commercial bank with national authorization. We will maintain our positive financial trends, expand our reach, and provide all our shareholders and stakeholders with optimum returns.

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