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CBN Freezes Accounts Linked to #EndSARS Promoters

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) purporting to act under sections 57 and 60(B) of Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA), section 13(1) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act 2013 and Regulations of the CBN Anti Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulations 2013, obtained an ex parte order from a Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze the accounts of 19 individuals and a company whom it alleged to have promoted the recent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria. This action has generated uproar, as it is uncertain how the Central Bank derived powers to obtain ex parte account freezing orders. The ex parte order freezes the accounts of the affected individuals and company for an initial period of 90 days to enable the Central Bank carry out investigations. It is strange that a court operating under a democracy would issue such far-reaching and delipidating order affecting the property of individuals and businesses without presenting them with an opportunity to be heard.

Criticisms have trailed the action of the Central Bank, as observers have described it as unlawful and unconstitutional. The scenario playing out essentially is the oppression of Nigerian citizens for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly and association. It will be recalled that in the course of the protests, reports emerged that bank accounts and other links used to garner funding for the welfare of #EndSARS protesters were blocked by the CBN.

It would seem that the Nigerian government has gone out of its way to suppress the #EndSARS movement, with a view to avoiding another set of protests, which it perceives to be targeted at the Buhari administration. It is unclear why the government has turned around to go after promoters of the protests after the President had committed to meeting the five demands of the #EndSARS protesters.