Femi Falana has warned the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to stop freezing accounts of activists.
He explained that the action of the apex bank constitutes a “gross infringement” to the fundamental right to a fair hearing.
A Federal High Court recently ordered the CBN to unfreeze accounts of protesters that have been frozen for months.
Falana revealed that on November 4, 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria approached the Federal High Court for an ex parte order to freeze the bank accounts of #EndSARS protesters.
According to Falana, “The CBN asked for 180 days to investigate the #EndSARS protesters for the offences of money laundering and terrorism. Convinced that the CBN was telling the truth, the court ordered that the bank accounts be frozen for 90 days.
“Since the #EndSARS protesters did not commit any offence whatsoever, the CBN did not investigate them until the ex parte order expired on February 4, 2021. It was on the basis of the expiration of the ex parte order that the case of the CBN was struck out by the Federal High Court.”
Going down memory lane, Falana narrated how the court gave favourable judgment to activists during the “dark days of military” and the CBN at that time never filed any ex parte motion to freeze anybody’s account.
“It is pertinent to recall that during the dark days of the military dictatorship in Nigeria, those of us in the front line of the battle for the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria were routinely arrested and detained under the obnoxious State Security (Detention of Persons Decreed) No 2 of 1984.
“But we regained our liberty on the orders of courts that acted as guardians of the civil rights of the Nigerian people even when judges were required to blow muted trumpets.
“In desperation, the military dictators charged us with sundry criminal offences including treasonable felony for having the temerity to challenge their corrupt practices and human rights abuse. But the courts ensured that we were admitted to bail in liberal terms.”
He added that “Our passports were impounded at the airports and confiscated by the National Security Organisation (now Department of State Services, DSS) to prevent us from travelling abroad to expose the atrocities of the dictators. But the passports were released to us on the orders of our courts.
“It is on record that the Central Bank of Nigeria, which was manned by professional bankers, never filed any ex parte application to freeze our accounts.
“Let the CBN stop freezing the bank accounts of activists because it constitutes a gross infringement of the fundamental right to fair hearing and property.”
He warned that if the CBN does not desist from the illegal practice “our courts should turn down frivolous applications for freezing the bank accounts of activists and other citizens.”