• Nigerian Court Says Central Bank Can Block Protest Accounts


    (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s central bank obtained a court order allowing it to freeze 20 bank accounts that were active in recent protests against police brutality.

    The decision by a federal court in Abuja on Nov. 4 permits the regulator to direct six commercial banks to restrict the accounts for 90 days “pending the outcome” of an investigation under way at the Central Bank of Nigeria, according to the ruling. Some of the accounts were blocked before the bank sought the legal authorization on Oct. 20.

    The accounts belong to prominent participants in the largely leaderless demonstrations that began last month and swept through Africa’s most populous nation. The ruling also affects Gatefield Nigeria Ltd., a public affairs company that raised funds to support independent journalists cover the protests. © Photographer: Adetona Omokanye/Getty Images People protest police brutality at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020 in Lagos, Nigeria.

    The holders of six accounts targeted by the decision told Bloomberg their accounts were frozen at least five days before the central bank submitted its application.

    Bassey Israel, a pharmacist from Port Harcourt, said he was collecting donations for medical supplies to help treat injured protesters before Access Bank Plc, the country’s largest lender, blocked his account on Oct. 15. The other institutions instructed to restrict clients’ accounts are Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, United Bank for Africa Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc and First Bank of Nigeria Ltd. The court order did not specify what the account holders are being investigated for.

    Gatefield sued Access Bank in Abuja last week, accusing the lender of “unilaterally restricting” its account. The bank informed the company the account was been blocked at the central bank’s behest.

    “This development proves that Access Bank acted illegally in complying with the alleged directive without any prior court order,” Adewunmi Emoruwa, Gatefield’s lead strategist, said in a statement Saturday.

    Related Slideshow: News in Pictures (Provided by Photo Services)


    Access Bank declined to comment. A spokesman for the central bank didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The government says 51 civilians and 22 policemen died as the initially peaceful protests against the excesses of the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, degenerated into days of rioting and looting across most of the country of more than 200 million people. Security forces killed at least 10 people when they opened fire on unarmed protesters gathered in Lagos on Oct. 20, according to Amnesty International. The Nigerian army has denied the allegation.

    The freezing order can be renewed after three months, according to the court order.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment