Group condemns freezing of EndSARS promoters accounts by CBN
Following the freezing of some EndSARS promoters accounts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Access to Justice (A2J) has denounced the action.
The group said it is dismayed by the court order given by Hon. Justice Ahmed Mohammed having been made ex-parte (without hearing the other side).
According to the group, the CBN arguably has no legal powers to direct the freezing of accounts of anyone on account of a civil protest.
“The CBN is a regulator whose objectives are defined by Section 2 of the Central Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Act 2004.
“Those objectives are to ensure monetary and price stability; issue legal tender currency in Nigeria; maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of the legal tender currency; promote a sound financial system in Nigeria; and act as banker and provide economic and financial advice to the Federal Government.
“Clearly the outlined “objects” of the CBN does not include actions related to financial transactions in support of legitimate expressions of political grievance, or speech. By its actions, the CBN is an enabler of political and regime repression, and is actively supporting the suppression of civil expression and dissent.
“This is so particularly troubling given that the protests related to legitimate concerns, which the government acknowledged to be genuine,” it said.
A2J in statement signed by it Convener, Joseph Otteh said the CBN has no power under law to act as a criminal agency or law enforcement arm of the government.
“If any crime is alleged to be committed by the protesters using their banking accounts, a report of the alleged crime(s) should have been made to a duly established law enforcement agency for investigation.
“Such an agency can take any action relevant to the investigation, including applying for a court order to freeze accounts.
“By directing that the accounts be frozen in the absence of a criminal complaint, the CBN, which has no direct relationship with the account holders, has usurped the powers of law enforcement authorities, and makes itself, illegally, accuser, investigator and prosecutor. In so doing, it acts well outside the perimeters of its statutory powers,” the group added.
The group noted that the implications of the CBN’s actions are huge and very troubling, saying that If the CBN gets away with it, then civil rights and political liberties are now greatly endangered, given that the apex bank can replicate the same actions against political opponents of the government, and civil society, to weaken them, deprive them of the means and ability to function or hold government accountable.
It said: “Settled jurisprudence directs courts to avoid the use of ex-parte orders where extreme urgencies do not exist, but. Justice Mohammed nevertheless went ahead to issue one, when there was, ostensibly, no grave urgency in the application by the CBN.
“There is no tenable reason why the court could not request that the persons who would be affected by its order be put on notice of the application so they can defend themselves and show reasons why the order(s) should not be made against them.”