#EndSARS: Nigeria investigates protesters under terror-financing regulation

*Account owners were active in protests against Police brutality

*The extremely serious allegations against innocent citizens protesting against bad governance is really unfortunate ─Clement Nwankwo, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Following the recent #EndSARS peaceful protests against Police brutality, reportedly later hijacked by hoodlums to perpetrate arson, destruction of public and private assets across the country, Nigeria is currently investigating prominent participants in the for possible violations of a law against financing terrorism.

According to court documents Bloomberg obtained November 11, a filing by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in a Federal High Court, in Abuja, FCT, asking to freeze 20 bank accounts, including those of 19 individuals and a company, for 180 days was backed by allegations the account owners may have broken the counter-terrorism legislation.

Earlier, the court November 4, 2020, had granted the country’s banking regulator permission to block the accounts for three months.

The CBN stated that the 19 individuals and one company affected by the measures “are alleged to be involved in suspected terrorism financing via their bank accounts.”

According to the filing, the court order was necessary to “prevent further acts of economic and security sabotage” against the Nigerian state and to allow the regulator to continue its investigation.

Report, however, noted though the filing did not specifically mention the largely “leaderless demonstrations” that began October, and rocked Africa’s most populous nation for weeks, yet the accounts belong to people who were actively involved in protest marches.

Gatefield Nigeria Limited, which is the only company listed in the filing, is a public affairs company that raised funds to support independent journalists to cover the protests at the time.

The holders of six of the accounts told Bloomberg the freezes were implemented before the Bankers’ Bank submitted its application to the court.

The document cited a section of Nigerian law that states anyone involved in making funds available to terrorist groups can be imprisoned for life.

Clement Nwankwo, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, an Abuja-based civil society organisation (CSO), said: “The extremely serious allegations against innocent citizens protesting against bad governance is really unfortunate.

“It diminishes the very important independent role that the central bank should be playing on economic matters.”

The freezing order can be renewed after three months, according to the judge’s decision.

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