The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja not to unfreeze the accounts of #EndSARS promoters because they are still under investigation for funding terrorism.
The CBN said this in a counter-affidavit challenging a motion on notice filed by Gatefield Nigeria Limited, a company that sponsored freelance journalists to cover the #EndSARS protests in October 2020.
Recall that 20 bank accounts belonging to 19 persons and Gatefield Nigeria Limited, were frozen by the apex bank which obtained an ex parte order from a court to impose a PND on their accounts over their roles in the End SARS 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.
CBN, in a counter-affidavit filed by a lawyer, A.J. Apera, on behalf of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, told Justice Ahmed Mohammed that it duly obtained a court order on November 4, 2020 to freeze the accounts.
The central bank, 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 honourable 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 be dismissed as the investigations being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria in respect of the defendants’ frozen accounts have not been concluded.”
The United Kingdom Parliament had last week criticised the Federal Government for freezing the accounts of #EndSARS promoters 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.