CBN accuses #EndSARS protesters of terrorism after freezing their bank accounts illegally
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THE Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has accused some #EndSARS protesters of financing terrorism after freezing their bank accounts illegally.
The CBN had in the second week of October frozen bank accounts of 20 #EndSARS protesters and thereafter approached a Federal High Court in Abuja to seek an ex parte order to freeze the accounts, Punch reports.
The affected accounts are domiciled in Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank of Africa, and Zenith Bank.
Contained in the written address in support of a motion ex parte filed by the applicant Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, the apex bank alleged that the transactions in the frozen accounts can cause economic, security harm.
“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.”
“There is a grave allegation that the defendants are involved in suspected terrorism financing via their bank accounts in contravention of the provisions of extant laws and regulations. The aforesaid transactions undertaken by the defendants, using their bank accounts, can cause significant economic and security harm to the public and the Federal Republic of Nigeria if left unchecked,” the written address read in part read in part.
In the case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed, the CBN, however, made no mention of the fact that the 20 accounts were owned by persons involved in the #EndSARS protests, but told the court that the funds might have emanated from terrorist activities, Punch reports.
While the majority of Nigerians have criticised the Federal Government’s moves to muzzle #EndSARS protesters, Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State governor has defended it, saying there’s nothing wrong with Nigeria’s apex bank freezing accounts of citizens.
While speaking on Channels Television Sunrise Daily program on Wednesday, Akeredolu said: “I don’t see anything wrong in it. If for instance, my account was frozen, what would I do? All I would do is go back to court to explain.
“Even politicians, their accounts are sometimes frozen. You have to go to court and explain. And at the end of the day, the court will say, leave the account, the account should be de-frozen and you take your money back.
“If your account is frozen, you justify why the money was there. You come to explain to what use you have put this money,” he said.
Meanwhile, Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation, has kept mum on the legality of freezing bank accounts of protesters.
When asked by journalists about frozen accounts owned by #EndSARS protesters, Malami was reported to have smiled and walked away, Channels reports.
There have been several attempts by the Federal Government to clamp down on frontline #EndSARS protesters over the past week, following the shooting of peaceful protesters by officers of the Nigerian Army at Lekki Toll Gate Plaza on October 20.
Modupe Odele, one of the lawyers who organised legal aid for the protesters had her international passport seized by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) while she tried leaving the country for the Maldives.
There have also been calls by the government for social media regulation. Leading the call is Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture who on Tuesday, October 27, used the #EndSARS protests as justification to make yet another push for social media regulation in the country.