The #ENDSARS campaign lasted for more than 2 weeks against the brutality of many of the officers of the Nigeria Police Force. The youths in assertion of their right to freedom of expression, including holding opinions, receiving and imparting ideas, and also exercising their freedom to assemble freely as contained in Section 39(1) and 40 of the 1999 constitution as amended, led various peaceful protests to show their dissatisfaction against the inept government and police brutality and criminality.
Then, on the 20th of October 2020, some members of the Nigeria Armed Forces and police shot at unarmed protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos. These armed men opened fire on the innocent nonviolent protesters gathered at the Toll gate. However, the Nigeria Army, through their spokesman, Major Asoba Olaniyi, claimed that the soldiers were deployed to restore order and denied any killing of #EndSARS campaigners. The protest was thus suspended when the government pleaded with the protesters and agreed to negotiate with the youths to resolve this outrageous issue.
It is, therefore, hypocritical for the government after this agreement, to freeze the account of 19 individuals and a public affairs company linked to the #ENDSARS protest till January pending the outcome of investigation by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The freezing of accounts is a breach of their right to fair hearing and the fundamental human right as postulated in the constitution.
An ex parte order should not be given against these persons without the other party putting them on notice. The claim by the Central Bank of Nigeria that they are terrorists and their accounts were sponsored by terrorists is unconstitutional and unprofessional, especially when the opportunity was not given to the other party to react to this fictitious claim. None of the parties against whom the motion was sought was present; and they had no foreknowledge of the suit. These persons should have been present when any evidence against them is given; and also, they should be given enough opportunity to correct or contradict such evidence. But this was not the case. They were neither in court nor served any notice of any pending case before that very court.
This very action of the CBN is unconstitutional and unlawful to our democratic dispensation. It is, therefore, illegal to arrest, detain and freeze the account of protesters who were only exercising their constitutional given rights. I, therefore, recommend that the order of the court be set aside and another motion heard on notice in accordance to our democratic constitution.
Barr Ifeoma Eke is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. She is currently in private practice and has appeared and done matters in all courts in Nigeria. Barr. (Mrs.) Eke is presently a doctoral student international and comparative law at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.