#EndSARS: Court Asks CBN to Unfreeze Activists’ Accounts

#EndSARS: Court Asks CBN to Unfreeze Activists’ Accounts

…As Parties Resolve on Amicable Settlement The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unfreeze the bank accounts of the 20 #EndSARS promoters axed last October, signalling a move by government to rethink its hard line posture on major actors of the two week protest riled against police

…As Parties Resolve on Amicable Settlement

The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unfreeze the bank accounts of the 20 #EndSARS promoters axed last October, signalling a move by government to rethink its hard line posture on major actors of the two week protest riled against police brutality.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the ruling following the agreement reached by parties in the suit to amicably resolve the matter.

The judge who commended CBN lawyer, Mr Michael Aondoaka, SAN, and lawyer to the defendants, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, ruled that “all processes filed in respect of the case are hereby deemed to have been withdrawn.”

Justice Mohammed, then, set aside the November 4, 2020 order and ruled that all the accounts of the affected persons “be immediately defreezed.”

The exparte order obtained by the CBN on November 4, 2020, expired on February 4.

The bank, in an exparte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/1384/2020 had prayed the court to freeze the bank accounts of Ms Bolatito Rachael Oduala and 19 others who participated in the last year protest to end police brutality in the country.

The apex bank said it took the action to investigate the promoters of the protest on allegations bordering on terrorism financing, among others.

However, on December 9, 2020 when the case came up, Falana alleged that the CBN ordered the freezing of his clients’ accounts two weeks before obtaining the court order.

The lawyer, who urged the court to vacate the order, alleged that while the court order was obtained on November 4, 2020, the apex bank ordered the freezing of the accounts from October 15, 2020.

Earlier at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Aondoaka told the court that he was served with a motion by Falana earlier in the day and that he had also filed another motion exparte on Tuesday, seeking for the extension of the freezing order.

The lawyer who noted that the avirements made by the defence counsel in some paragraphs of their motion were very contentious, said if he did not file a counter affidavit, it would be deemed that the CBN had admitted all the submissions.

He, however, said that if Falana agreed with him to withdraw the suit and embrace the Federal Government’s reconciliation move, there would be no need for him to respond to the motion served on him and for the request for extension of time.

“This matter involves young people and we do not want to prolong the matter today. If my colleague is ready to discard all the processes, I will be ready to withdraw my motion for extension. But if he wants to go ahead to argue the motion, I will have to file a counter application. This is so because the government has set up a reconciliation panel to look into this and the need to settle the matter,” he said.

He told the court that he had discussed the development with the defence counsel.

Responding, Falana confirmed that he had a discussion with Aondoaka on the way forward in the matter.

“As he (Aondoaka) has observed, the order exparte made by this court expired on February 4. Our motion to have the order quashed has been overtaken by events since it has expired,” he said.

Falana, therefore, sought for the withdrawal of all the processes filed in the matter.

“We, therefore, pray the court to allow us withdraw the same motion, and that will also affect all other processes filed in this matter. I also confirmed that a Judicial Commission of Enquiry are going on on police brutality which spurred the EndSARS protest last year,” he said.

Aondoaka, who told the court that the CBN had directed him in the spirit of reconciliation to withdraw the motion for the extension order, assured that he would communicate the court order to the affected banks once he received it.

Following a court order granted the CBN, the accounts of those perceived as leaders of the #EndSARS movement were ordered to be frozen at the following banks: Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank of Africa and Zenith Bank.

A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted the request of the CBN filed on October 20 in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020 to freeze the accounts of 19 individuals and a company known as Gatefield Nigeria Limited for participating at the #EndSARS protests organized to end police brutality in Nigeria.

The affected activists include Bolatito Racheal Oduala, Chima David Ibebunjoh, Mary Doose Kpengwa, Saadat Temitope Bibi, Bassey Victor Israel, Wisdom Busaosowo Obi, Nicholas Ikhalea Osazele, Ebere Idibie, and Akintomide Lanre Yusuf,

Others are Uhuo Ezenwanyi Promise, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye, Adegoke Pamilerin Yusuf, Umoh Grace Ekanem, Babatunde Victor Segun, Mulu Louis Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Akpevweoghene Jacob, Victor Solomon and Idunu A. Williams.

The order of Justice Mohammed read as follows:

“A mandatory order is made empowering the plaintiff/applicant to direct the head office of Access Bank of Nigeria Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc and Zenith Bank Plc to freeze forthwith all transactions on the 20 bank accounts listed for a period of 90 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry currently being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria. It is, however, directed that the 90-day freezing order, when it lapses, may be renewed upon good cause shown by the applicant. It is also directed that any person, whether artificial or natural, that is affected by this order may apply to the court to have his grievance or complaint heard by the court. The suit is adjourned till February 4, 2021.”

The Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria, (GCSDN) and its partners had called for massive boycott of banks involved in the freezing of accounts of prominent EndSARS activists asking people to embrace other financial institutions.

The coalition said it was “calling on well-meaning Nigerians home and abroad to quickly close their bank accounts with the banks that have frozen the accounts of our compatriots who peacefully participated in the EndSARS protest.”

“If you live abroad, we sincerely appeal to you to kindly avoid sending money to your friends and relatives through the blacklisted banks. Please we must show to this government that this oppression of the Nigerian people is absolutely unacceptable. This is ‘Revolution Without Ammunition’,” the GCSDN says, in a statement by its Global Coordinator, Mr Frederick O. Odorige.

 

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