To obtain account freeze order, CBN told court that EndSARS protesters may be terrorists

To obtain account freeze order, CBN told court that EndSARS protesters may be terrorists

The Central Bank of Nigeria labelled 20 #ENDSARS protesters, whose accounts were frozen as terrorists in order to obtain an order for the freezing of their accounts from a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, court papers obtained by newsmen have shown.

The papers showed that the apex bank, in a written address in support of a motion ex parte filed by it, also contended that the funds in the accounts might have been linked to terrorist activities.

It would be recalled that the CBN had in the second week of October frozen 20 accounts belonging the supporters of the #EndSARS protest before approaching the court to seek an ex parte order to freeze the accounts.

The CBN however did not mention the fact that the owners of the accounts were persons involved in the #EndSARS protests but that the funds could have emanated from terrorist activities.

The case, with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, was filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed.

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 Governor’s Department, CBN, Joseph Omayuku, had conducted an investigation on the accounts of the defendants and other individuals and entities held with certain banks in Nigeria.

Jacob also contended in the affidavit that the investigation showed that the owners of the accounts may have been involved in terrorist activities.

“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”, Jacob said in the affidavit.

The apex bank said unless the order was granted, it would not be able to ensure that the money remained intact, while investigations were ongoing.

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.

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