A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to immediately unfreeze 20 bank accounts linked to protesters and promoters of #EndSARS.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the order following the sudden withdrawal of a suit instituted against them by the CBN through its counsel, Michael Aondoakaa (SAN).
The order which was for 180 days was to enable the CBN probe the alleged crime against the defendants.
Although the order was supposed to be renewed upon an application by the CBN, the apex bank, however, opted to withdraw its earlier application for an extension of time and the subsequent decision of the defendants through their lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), to also withdraw all processes filed against the suit.
When the matter came up on Wednesday, Aondoakaa told the court that he had discussed with counsel for the defendants and in the spirit of reconciliation, his client was withdrawing the suit.
Justice Mohammed, in a short ruling, struck out the suit.
“All processes filed deemed to have been withdrawn in the spirit of reconciliation, the suit is hereby struck out. The order of November 4, 2020, freezing the accounts of the respondents is hereby set aside. An order is made de-freezing the accounts of the respondents immediately”, he said.
The apex bank had in an ex parte application filed on October 20, 2020, asked the court to freeze the accounts of the respondents which was granted by Justice Ahmed Mohammed.
The court order was addressed to the Head offices of Access Bank, Fidelity Bank, First Bank of Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank of Africa and Zenith Bank.
The court directed the banks to freeze all transactions on the accounts on the list annexed to the CBN’s application as an exhibit for a period of 180 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry by the bank.
The 180 days lapsed last week.
Some of the bank accounts holders were Bolatito Oduala, Chima Ibebunjoh, Mary Kpengwa, Saadat Bibi, Bassey Israel, Wisdom Obi, Nicholas Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Yusuf, Uhuo Promise and Mosopefoluwa Odeseye.
The list also included Adegoke Yusuf, Umoh Ekanem, Babatunde Segun, Mulu Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Jacob, Victor Solomon, Idunu Williams, and Gatefield Nigeria Limited.
Falana, in an interview with journalists, warned the government to stop violating the rights of Nigerians.
According to him, as of today, none of his clients has been invited for questioning, interrogated or charged to court for any of the alleged offences for which their accounts were frozen.
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the Federal Government was not wrong to freeze the bank accounts of 20 #EndSARS campaigners.
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“Government is not wrong particularly in circumstances that justifies intense investigation. It is the end result of an investigation that can determine whether government is right or wrong as determine by the court on the basis of the facts presented,” he said.
Malami, who is also the Minister of Justice, stated this on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme.
Speaking hours later on the decision of the court, Malami said the decision to comply with the court order or not would not be out of intimidation, adding that the government cannot be intimidated.
He said, “The decision to comply with the court order or not is not a decision that is a product of intimidation; government cannot be intimidated, government cannot in anyway be compromised as far as the exercise of its constitutional powers are concerned but that does not mean the government is perpetually inconsiderate.
“The bottom-line is that the public interest matters most in whatever decision the government arrives at as far as compliance or non-compliance with the orders or judgments of the court are concerned. Intimidation is out of it, threats are out of it, constitutionality is the bottom-line.”
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