The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was reportedly able to obtain an order to freeze the bank accounts of 20 protesters after telling a court the targeted accounts were owned by suspected terrorists.
Under Nigerian law, the government cannot legally block the bank accounts of individuals for exercising their constitutional right to protest.
In the second week of October, the CBN was apparently able to work around this by telling Justice A. R. Mohammed that the accounts it wishes to block could be linked to terrorist activities.
The CBN, according to reports, made no mention of the fact that the 20 bank accounts were owned by persons involved in the EndSARS protests, widespread demonstrations against police brutality which the Nigerian government admitted were peaceful.
“My lord, the nature of the transactions undertaken through the defendants’ accounts are of suspected terrorism financing in contravention of Section 13(1)(a)and(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention)(Amendment) Act, 2013 and Regulation 31(2)(a)and (3)(b) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2013,” the CBN told the court.
The 20 accounts frozen by the CBN are domiciled in Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa and Zenith Bank, Punch reported.
EndSARS campaigner Bolatito Olorunrinu Oduala, who sits on the Lagos judicial panel investigating the allegations of police brutality, was affected the the bank ban.
Bassey Israel, a pharmacist who helped treat injured protesters in Port Harcout, was also affected.
The bank accounts affected belonged to those who coordinated fundraisers that got protesters going.
Acvitists have condemned the CBN move. One of them, Aisha Yesufu, wondered why the government was not attacking Boko Haram terrorists and murderous bandits with the same gusto.
“The question is, why did they freeze the accounts before obtaining a court injunction? Why the illegality? Our judiciary should know that it is an independent arm of government and there is separation of power.
“The government should be ashamed of itself. The United Arab Emirates just convicted some Nigerians, who were accused of terrorism, and we are hearing that the government would appeal on their behalf. That is where the problem is.
“Bandits are laying down their arms and they are taking them to Government Houses, while Boko Haram members are being given preferential treatment, but Nigerians, who were protesting, were being killed by the government.
“The government is the one behaving like a terrorist right now.”