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Central Bank during military dictatorship never froze Activists’ Bank Accounts – Femi Falana

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stay out of politics and stick to the business of banking.

Falana’s call was made in reaction to the unfreezing of bank accounts belonging to 20 #EndSARS promoters.. He said even under military dictatorship, accounts owned by activists were never frozen and wondered why the Muhammadu Buhari led government opted to freeze accounts of protesters.

We shouldn’t be debating whether a government should obey court orders in a democracy, added human rights lawyer, Femi Falana on Thursday as he spoke about the actions by the Central Bank under Godwin Emefiele.

Following the #EndSARS protest that rocked the nation in October 2020, the CBN obtained an injunction from the court to freeze the accounts of certain individuals and a public affairs company linked to the #EndSARS protests, a move which Mr. Falana describes as a case of intimidation.

The human rights lawyer who stood as legal counsel to the protesters whose accounts were frozen was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily argued that the apex bank went out of its way.

“I do hope that sufficient lessons have been learnt particularly by the Central Bank to desist from jumping into the political arena by attempting to freeze the accounts of people who are involved in the struggle one way or the other against the government,” he stated.

Falana further argued that the CBN misled the court into believing that some grave offenses had been committed, which would require time to run an investigation.

He however noted that no offense was committed and no attempt was made by the Central Bank to investigate any individual.

The lawyer urged the CBN to be more circumspect in the future, adding that the individuals whose accounts were frozen will be going to court to challenge the “gross violation” of their rights to their property.

A federal high court in Abuja had on Wednesday, asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unfreeze the bank accounts of 20  #EndSARS protesters.

NewsWireNGR reported that, Ahmed Mohammed, the judge, gave the order on Wednesday after counsel to the CBN and the legal representative of the protesters agreed to settle out of court.

The CBN froze the bank accounts in the heat of the #EndSARS  campaign. The apex bank had secured a court order to effect the freeze which elapsed last Tuesday.

While Mr. Falana argues that the rights of the #EndSARS campaigners were infringed, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, says President Muhammadu Buhari tolerated the ‘excesses’ of #EndSARS protesters in the country, back in October 2020.

According to the AGF, that, among other actions of the president is proof of his leniency, despite what he termed as “human rights violations” in the country.

Mr. Malami said this on Wednesday while addressing a number of issues from the government’s reaction to the #EndSARS protests, to the appointment of new service chiefs, the extension of the appointment of the Inspector-General of Police, among others.

“As far as Human Rights records of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is concerned, the fact speaks for itself, the commendation by the international body which is the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, local compliance with the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, which has been unprecedented, tolerance and indeed, accommodation for the excesses of the #EndSARS protesters were all facts that go to establish a point that the government of President Buhari has shown greater accommodation of the human rights violation and the tolerance to the human rights record as far as the Nigerian State is concerned,” the AGF said on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

According to him, “no nation in the world could have tolerated the idea of destruction to its security institutions”.

“I think over 20 police stations or more — I’m not certain about the number, they can be more — were destroyed during #EndSARS protests and government has a responsibility to ensure the protection of lives and freedom of movement.

“We are confronted with a situation whereby #EndSARS protesters blocked roads, caused mayhem, caused deaths, caused destruction, and they were significantly tolerated to a certain extent,” he added.

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