By Chika Otuchikere
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has explained why it froze the bank accounts of some of the frontline #EndSARS protesters, saying their action was act of terrorism.
A written address in support of a motion ex parte filed by the apex bank, revealed that the CBN was able to obtain a court order which enabled it to freeze the accounts of 20 #EndSARS frontliners by alleging that their accounts might have been linked to terrorist activities.
The case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020 filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed, made no mention of the fact that the 20 accounts were owned by persons involved in the #EndSARS protests, but instead alleged that the funds might have emanated from terrorist activities.
The written address read in part:
“My lord, the nature of the transactions undertaken through the defendants’ accounts are of suspected terrorism financing in contravention of Section 13(1)(a)and(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention)(Amendment) Act, 2013 and Regulation 31(2)(a) and (3)(b) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2013.”
A supporting affidavit deposed to by one Aondowase Jacob on behalf of the CBN, stated that the Head of the Economic Intelligence Unit of the CBN Governor’s Department, Joseph Omayuku, had conducted an investigation on the accounts of the defendants and other individuals and entities held with certain banks in Nigeria. It was alleged that the investigation showed that the owners of the accounts may have been involved in terrorist activities.
The affidavit added;
“There is a grave allegation that the defendants are involved in suspected terrorism financing via their bank accounts in contravention of the provisions of extant laws and regulations. The aforesaid transactions undertaken by the defendants, using their bank accounts, can cause significant economic and security harm to the public and the Federal Republic of Nigeria if left unchecked.
“The applicant (CBN governor) is thus desirous to have the court empower him to direct the freezing of the 20 accounts listed on the annexure to this application and all other bank accounts held by the defendants.
“A freezing order of this honourable court in respect of the defendants’ accounts would also enable the investigation of the activities of the defendants to a logical conclusion with a view to reporting same to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit.”
The CBN further prayed that unless the order was granted, it would not be able to ensure that the money remained intact, while investigations were ongoing. The 20 accounts frozen by the CBN are domiciled in Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa and Zenith Bank.
Justice Mohammed froze the accounts for 180 days subject to renewal, but said anyone who was not satisfied with the ruling was free to challenge it.
It was reported earlier that the accounts were flagged after they received money with the narration #EndSARS.