No fewer than 16 #EndSARS campaigners have asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to reverse a temporary restraining order placed on their accounts by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Newsmen had reported how the bank had, even before obtaining a court order, frozen the accounts of 20 #EndSARS promoters for funding the campaign against police brutality. The bank later secured an ex parte order to support its action.
The move, which came as one of the government’s many crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators, has been widely condemned.
In a court affidavit, the CBN had claimed that its decision to shut down the accounts was on suspicion that the the demonstrators might have been funded through terrorism.
But on Thursday, 16 of the aggrieved campaigners filed a motion for the restraining order to be lifted. The motion was through their lawyer, Femi Falana.
The 16 applicants are ‘Rinu’ Oduala, a member of the panel set up by the Lagos State Government to look into police brutality; Chima Ibebunjoh, Mary Kpengwa, Saadat Bibi, Bassey Israel, Wisdom Obi, Nicholas Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Yusuf, Uhuo Promise, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye, Adegoke Pamilerin, Umoh Ekanem, Babatunde Segun, Mary Oshifowora and Idunnu Williams.
Their application is based on 13 grounds.
In their appeal, they contended that the CBN acted beyond its authority by freezing their bank accounts before approaching the court for a restraining order, an act they called ‘illegal’.
They also contended that their right to fair hearing under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004, was violated when the court order allowed the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, to freeze their accounts for 90 days.
The campaigners argued that the court’s 90-day freezing order also violated Order 26 Rules 5, 10 and 11(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019, which prescribes a maximum of 14 days for the validity of an ex parte order.
Appalled by the ‘terrorist’ labelling by the CBN governor, the #EndSARS promoters faulted the CBN for exercising power beyond its purview as it was never among the investigative or prosecuting agencies recognised under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 and the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013.
An affidavit deposited by Marshal Abubakar of the Falana chambers said the claimants’ accounts were frozen in October by CBN without any justification or proof to the terrorism claim by the CBN.
Abubakar said all the demonstrators whose accounts were frozen were never arrested for any crime before.
He added that their only sin was being protesters despite the President, Muhammadu Buhari, emphasising the right of citizens to protest in his nationwide speech calling for calm.
“They are Nigerian citizens, human rights activists, social crusaders and some of the leaders of the #EndSARS movement, campaigning for an end to the brutality and a series of human rights violations perpetrated by the special police unit known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad,” he said.