Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High Court in Abuja has been told not to unfreeze the accounts of EndSARS protesters who are being probed for a suspected act of terrorism.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made this request in a plea to the judge on Tuesday, December 1.
The CBN said this in a counter-affidavit in opposition to a motion on notice filed by Gatefield Nigeria Limited, a company that sponsored freelance journalists to cover the #EndSARS protests in October.
The apex bank had through an ex parte order frozen the account of Gatefield Nigeria Limited and 19 other persons who played a role in the protests.
However, Gatefield opposed the CBN’s action in court, insisting that the act was illegal because the apex bank had frozen the accounts even before the court order to do so was obtained.
In a counter-affidavit filed by a lawyer, A.J. Apera, on behalf of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the apex bank stated that it duly obtained a court order on November 4, 2020, to freeze the accounts.
The CBN, however, made no mention of #EndSARS in the court papers but only told the court that all those whose accounts were frozen were under probe for suspected terrorism.
The affidavit read in part, “That the bank accounts frozen by this honorable court, in this case, are suspected to be involved in transactions bordering on terrorism financing and that the said accounts are being investigated by the Central Bank of Nigeria in that regard.”
The apex bank said it did not need to inform the #EndSARS campaigners about the freezing of their accounts because of the nature of the investigation which is terrorism-related.
It added, “That the allegations involving the defendants’ accounts being investigated by the Central Bank of Nigeria border on terrorism and that there was an extreme urgency warranting the grant of the ex parte order in this suit.”
The apex court said it had the legal right to investigate the defendants because it had to do with financing and funds being stored in financial institutions.
The CBN said it would forward its findings to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit for further investigation.
The affidavit further read, “That it will be in the best interest of justice that the instant application is dismissed as the investigations being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria in respect of the defendants’ frozen accounts have not been concluded.” The Parliament of the United Kingdom had last week criticized the Federal Government for freezing the accounts of #EndSARS campaigners under the guise of probing terrorist financing.
The accounts have been frozen for 40 days while none of the accused has been invited for questioning.