Court Orders CBN to Unfreeze #EndSARS Activists’ Accounts
By Alex Enumah
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, yesterday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to immediately unfreeze 20 bank accounts linked to protesters and promoters of #EndSARS protests against police brutality.
Justice Mohammed gave the order following the withdrawal of the suit by counsel to the CBN, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN).
The order, which was for 90 days, was to enable the CBN to investigate the defendants for an alleged crime.
Although the order was supposed to be renewed upon an application by the CBN, Aondoakaa filed for its withdrawal in an earlier application for extension of time.
Also, the defendants through their lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), withdrew all processes filed against the suit, prompting the judge to strike it out.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Mohammed, ordered all the commercial banks affected by the order, to “immediately” unfreeze the accounts.
It also struck out the suit that was filed against the alleged #EndSARS promoters by the CBN, and its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emiefele.
The order came after all the parties notified the court that they had resolved to amicably settle the matter by withdrawing all the processes they earlier filed with respect to the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020.
When the matter was called yesterday, Aondoakaa told the court that he had discussed with the counsel to the defendants and in the spirit of reconciliation, his client was withdrawing the suit.
Justice Mohammed, in a short ruling, struck out the suit following the application for its withdrawal.
“All processes filed deemed to have been withdrawn in the spirit of reconciliation, the suit is hereby struck out.
“The order of November 4, 2020, freezing the accounts of the respondents is hereby set aside.
“An order is made de-freezing the accounts of the respondents immediately,” the judge said.
The apex bank had filed an ex-parte application on October 20, 2020, asking the court to freeze the accounts of the respondents, which Justice Mohammed granted.
The court order was addressed to the head offices of Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank of Africa, and Zenith Bank.
The court directed the banks to freeze all transactions on the accounts on the list annexed to the CBN’s application as exhibit for a period of 180 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry by the bank.
The 90 days elapsed on February 2.
Some of the bank accounts holders are Bolatito Oduala, Chima Ibebunjoh, Mary Kpengwa, Saadat Bibi, Bassey Israel, Wisdom Obi, Nicholas Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Yusuf, Uhuo Promise and Mosopefoluwa Odeseye.
Others are: Adegoke Yusuf, Umoh Ekanem, Babatunde Segun, Mulu Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Jacob, Victor Solomon, Idunu Williams, and Gatefield Nigeria Limited.
The defendants, in an application they filed to set aside the order, had maintained that they were denied fair hearing by the court.
They accused the CBN of not only lying to the court when it painted them as suspected terrorists but also engaging in gross abuse of the judicial process.
They said the freezing order the court issued against them was “anchored on misrepresentation of material facts and based on suppression of material facts” by the CBN.
Falana, in an interview with journalists, urged the government to stop violating the rights of Nigerians.
He said none of his clients was invited for questioning, interrogated, or charged to court for any of the alleged offences for which their accounts were frozen.