The Central Bank of Nigeria owes a high duty of care to each and every holder of the e-wallet account and has a fiduciary duty to all such account holders, and can be held liable for negligence irrespective of any terms and conditions in the e-wallet app or website.
By law, the CBN is the apex bank and regulatory body for all banks in Nigeria. Previously, the CBN was only directly liable to banks and a few other entities in regards to the direct management of customer funds, but upon the introduction of eNaira, through eNaira wallet which is under the control of CBN, the liability of CBN in tort has officially extended to everybody who owns an eNaira wallet, and the disclaimer on the eNaira app absolving CBN of any liability is merely wishful thinking in law.
The eNaira is provided by the CBN to banks who will serve as intermediaries (i.e financial institutions) who would in turn help supply to individuals/customers. These banks will maintain a treasury wallet to collect eNaira from the CBN. They would thereafter oversee ID verification, eNaira payment processing, and generation of wallets for Nigerians to keep their eNaira. Through the app, customers would be able to identify a bank of their choice, connect to their bank accounts and carry out transactions.
Put simply, CBN will fund your bank with enough eNaira, and your bank will, in turn, fund your eNaira wallet with the equivalent amount of money you transfer from your bank account into the wallet. But the eNaira wallet still remains the property of the CBN for all intents and purposes. Banks came into the picture as mere intermediaries.
CBN by its direct ownership and maintenance of eNaira wallet and account holders fund has brought itself into a somewhat bank-customer relationship and fiduciary duty with every owner of the eNaira wallet, and as such will be liable for any form of negligence done by its act or immission. Owning an eNaira wallet is equivalent to opening a bank account. It automatically puts CBN in a fiduciary relationship with the owners of the account, which thereby elicits a duty of care from the CBN to all eNaira wallet account holders. Any breach of such a duty of care imposes liability for negligence on CBN as the owner and backer of eNaira wallet.
The Law imposed a duty to exercise a high standard of care in managing every e-wallet account holder’s money on CBN. This duty cannot be dodged or shifted away by mere Terms and Conditions on an app or website.
It is settled law that generally a financial institution in dealings with its customers owes to them a duty of care and thus negligence if proved is a ground for liability against it by its customer. It follows, therefore, that between the CBN and all its e-wallet customers, negligence will certainly arise where CBN breaches the implied duty to observe the standard expected of a reasonable financial institution, in respect of dealings with the customer’s funds and the onus, of proving that it is not negligent lies on CBN.
In conclusion, CBN cannot dodge liability by mere terms and conditions stated on an e-wallet app or website. Such a disclaimer is not enough in law to absolve it of the duty of care and fiduciary duty imposed on it by law. Any negligence on the part of CBN in dealing with people’s e-wallet accounts will definitely make it liable.
Opatola Victor Esq;
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