Falana stated that it was “infringement on the fundamental right to fair hearing and property” for the bank to freeze bank accounts of protesters.
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria to stop freezing the bank accounts of protesters and activists in the country, saying the bank never did so when it was managed by professionals.
The SAN recalled that even during the dark days of military dictatorship, it never happened that the CBN froze the accounts of protesters.
He said, “On November 4, 2020, the CBN approached the Federal High Court for an ex parte order to freeze the bank accounts of#EndSARS protesters. The CBN asked for 180 days to investigate the #EndSARS protesters for the offences of money laundering and terrorism.
“Convinced that the CBN was telling the truth, the court ordered that the bank accounts be frozen for 90 days. Since the #EndSARS protesters did not commit any offence whatsoever, the CBN did not investigate them until the ex parte order expired on February 4, 2021.
“It was on the basis of the expiration of the ex parte order that the case of the CBN was struck out by the Federal High Court today.
“It is pertinent to recall that during the dark days of military dictatorship in Nigeria, those of us in the front line of the battle for the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria were routinely arrested and detained under the obnoxious State Security (Detention of Persons Decreed) No 2 of 1984. But we regained our liberty on the orders of courts that acted as guardians of the civil rights of the Nigerian people even when judges were required to blow muted trumpets.
“In desperation, the military dictators charged us with sundry criminal offences, including treasonable felony for having the temerity to challenge their corrupt practices and human rights abuse. But the courts ensured that we were admitted to bail in liberal terms.
“Our passports were impounded at the airports and confiscated by the National Security Organisation (now State Security Service) to prevent us from travelling abroad to expose the atrocities of the dictators. But the passports were released to us on the orders of our courts.
“It is on record that the Central Bank of Nigeria, which was then manned by professional bankers, never filed any ex parte application to freeze our accounts. Let the CBN stop freezing the bank accounts of activists because it constitutes a gross infringement on the fundamental right to fair hearing and property. If the CBN does not desist from the illegal practice, our courts should turn down frivolous applications for freezing the bank accounts of activists and other citizens.”
The Federal High Court in Abuja had earlier today ordered the CBN to unfreeze the accounts of 20 individuals linked to the #EndSARS protests.
The judge, Ahmed Mohammed, issued the order unfreezing the accounts on Wednesday after the legal teams of both the CBN and defendants decided to end the case.
The CBN had in October 2020 asked banks to freeze accounts of 20 #EndSARs protesters.
Some of the affected individuals include Bolatito Racheal Oduala, Chima David Ibebunjoh, Mary Doose Kpengwa, Gatefield Nigeria Limited, Saadat Temitope Bibi, Bassey Victor Israel, Wisdom Busaosowo Obi, Nicholas Ikhalea Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Lanre Yusuf, Uhuo Ezenwanyi Promise, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye and Adegoke Pamilerin Emmanuel.
Others are Umoh Grace Ekanem, Babatunde Victor Segun, Mulu Louis Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Akpevweoghene Jacob, Victor Solomon and Idunu A. Williams.
Their lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), explained that he vehemently opposed the Nigerian government lawyer, former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, who told the court they were still in reconciliation and that the order had expired since last week.