The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had recently, nullified an order is made on November 4, 2020, which directed banks to freeze accounts that were linked to 20 alleged promoters of the #EndSARS protest that rocked the
nation last year.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, ordered all the commercial banks affected by the order, to “immediately” unfreeze the accounts, even as it struck out the suit that was filed against the alleged #EndSARS promoters by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and its governor, Mr Godwin Emiefele.
The order is coming as a result of all parties involved notification to the court that they had resolved to amicably settle the matter by withdrawing all the processes they earlier filed with respect to the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020.
While the CBN and its governor were represented by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, Human rights activists and lawyer Femi Falana, SAN, represented all the persons affected by the freezing order.
The senior lawyers told the court at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Wednesday that their decision to withdraw all the processes in the suit was to allow the reconciliation process that is ongoing before various panels of enquiry on police brutality across the country, to progress unhindered.
After he had listened to the parties, Justice Mohammed accordingly struck out the suit.
Recalled that the court had initially ordered banks to freeze accounts of suspected promoters of the #EndSARS protest for a total period of 180 days.
in line with the strength of an ex-parte application that was brought before it by the CBN and its governor.
Here are the names of the twenty (20) persons that were listed as Defendants in the suit; Bolatito Oduala, Chima Ibebunjoh, Mary Kpengwa, Gatefield Nigeria Limited, Saadat Bibi, Bassey Israel, Wisdom Obi, Nicholas Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Yusuf, Uhuo Promise, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye Adegoke Emmanuel, Umoh Ekanem, Babatunde Segun, Mulu Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Jacob, Victor Solomon, and Idunu Williams.
Meanwhile, the Defendants, made their grievances felt in an application they filed to set aside the order, and insisted that they were denied fair hearing by the court. They further accused the CBN of abusing the judicial system and lying to the court when it portrayed them as suspected terrorist.
In their submissions, the Defendants argued that the freezing order the court issued against them was informed by unsubstantiated evidence and the suppression of material facts” by the CBN.
Listing 13 grounds the court should consider and unfreeze their accounts, they argued that the ex-parte order the court granted to the apex bank only validated an illegal act.
According to them, “The Plaintiff/Respondent unlawfully froze the accounts of the Defendants/Applicants before seeking and obtaining the orders of this Honourable Court on November 4, 2020.
“This Honorable Court on the 4th day of November 2020 pursuant to an ex parte application brought by the Plaintiff/Respondent, made a mandatory order, inter alia, empowering the Plaintiff/Applicant to direct the head of Access Bank of Nigeria Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank Plc, Guarantee Trust Bank Plc, United Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc to freeze forthwith all transactions on the 20 Bank Accounts of the Defendants/Applicants for a period of 90 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry currently being conducted by the CBN without affording the Respondents/Applicants the right of fair hearing.
“The said order of the Honorable Court permitting the Plaintiff/Respondent to freeze the Applicants account for a period of 90 days (renewable for another 90 days) breached the fundamental right of the Defendants/Applicants, to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004 in that no fair hearing was granted the applicant/respondent before the order was made.
“The order permitting the Plaintiff/Respondent to freeze the Defendants/Applicants account violates Order 26 Rules 5, 10 And 11(1) and (2) Of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019 which prescribes a maximum period of 14 days as the duration of an ex parte order.
“The Plaintiff/Respondent is neither one of the investigative agencies nor prosecuting agencies recognized under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 and the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013.
“They said others violated the rights of the Defendants/Applicants to own movable property. There was no urgency warranting the grant of the order ex parte.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese