Govt had nothing to act on to freeze #EndSARS campaigners’ bank accounts — Falana
…Says CBN must desist from jumping into political arena
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has given reasons the federal government was yet to obey the court order to unfreeze bank accounts of 20 #EndSARS protesters. Malami, who spoke on Sunrise Daily, a Channels TV programme monitored in Lagos yesterday, Malami said the federal government’s decision not to unfreeze the bank accounts immediately was because it was still weighing options as allowed by the law on such matters. On October 15, 2020, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, directed banks to place a Post-No-Debit order on the accounts of 20 persons linked to the #EndSARS campaign.
Three weeks after, Mike Aondoakaa, counsel to CBN obtained an ex parte order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to freeze the bank accounts of the #EndSARS campaigners for a period of 90 days. At the expiration of the 90-day order on February 2,2021, CBN moved to extend the period but later withdrew the application on Wednesday.
It was on this note that Ahmed Mohammed, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, ordered the unfreezing of the bank accounts. But speaking on the programme yesterday, Malami said: “We need to take in a lot of factors with particular reference to the compliance with the court order and within the context of striking a balance, the options that are available are multiple. “One, the consideration of or a possibility of wholehearted compliance with the court order; that is, comprehensive, unconditional compliance with the order relating with the unfreezing of the #EndSARS account. “But, that does not take away the right of government to give a further consideration when the need arises, a consideration, for example, of excising the right of appeal against the order, if the need arises, coupled with the right of stay of execution of the order or perhaps, application of variation of order, among others.
“While the government has chosen to exercise those rights and, indeed, an appeal of variation of the court order or an appeal for setting aside the order or perhaps stay of execution of the order, you cannot within the context of the rule of law adjudge the government as operating in breach of the order.
“It all depends on, for example, where parties unilaterally settle for arrangement or the order is a product of settlement arrangement. I think the possibility of considering options associated with appeal of variation of the order or setting aside the court order may not necessarily come into play. “But where it indeed is product of contentions between the party ‘A’ saying, ‘this is the way it is’, and the other party saying no, ‘this is the way it is’, the court will now decide to make a ruling one way or the other.
‘’So, the right of appeal, right of application to set aside the court order or perhaps, maybe a staying of execution of the order may come into play.
“It all depends on the prevailing circumstances. It is the prevailing circumstances that determine what decisions, what provision, what direction the party involved in the suit or the party affected by the order will consider as the next line of action to take.
Speaking on the same programme, counsel to the protesters, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, said the Federal Government had nothing to act on to freeze the accounts of the protesters, saying the development was a violation of constitutional provisions which guaranteed the rights of Nigerians to protests. Falana also asked CBN to stay out of politics and stick to the business of banking. Noting that the apex bank went out of its way, Falana said: “I do hope that sufficient lessons have been learnt, particularly by CBN 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 argued further that CBN misled the court into believing that some grave offences had been committed, which would require time to investigate. He, however, noted that no offence was committed and that no attempt was made by CBN to investigate any individual. The lawyer urged 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.