The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unfreeze the bank accounts of the 20 #EndSARS promoters.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed gave the ruling following the agreement reached by parties in the suit to amicably resolve the matter.
Justice Mohammed, who commended counsel to the CBN, Michael Aondoaka, SAN, and lawyer to the defendants, Femi Falana, SAN, ruled that “all processes filed in respect of the case are hereby deemed to have been withdrawn.”
The judge, then, set aside the Nov. 4, 2020 order and ordered that all the accounts of the affected persons “be immediately defreezed.”
The exparte order obtained by the CBN on Nov. 4, 2020, expired on February 4. The bank, in an exparte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/1384/2020 had prayed the court to unfreeze the bank accounts of Bolatito Rachael Oduala and 19 others who participated in the last year protest to end police brutality in the country.
The apex bank said it took the action to investigate the promoters of the protest on allegations bordering on terrorism financing, among others.
However, on Dec. 9, 2020 when the case came up, Falana alleged that the CBN ordered the freezing of his clients’ accounts two weeks before obtaining the court order.
The lawyer, who urged the court to vacate the order, alleged that while the court order was obtained on Nov. 4, 2020, the apex bank ordered the freezing of the accounts from Oct. 15, 2020.
Earlier at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Aondoaka told the court that he was served with a motion by Falana earlier in the day and that he had also filed another motion exparte on Tuesday, seeking for the extension of the freezing order.
The lawyer who noted that the avirements made by the defence counsel in some paragraphs of their motion were very contentious, said if he did not file a counter affidavit, it would be deemed that the CBN had admitted all the submissions.
He, however, said that if Falana agreed with him to withdraw the suit and embrace the Federal Government’s reconciliation move, there would be no need for him to respond to the motion served on him and for the request for extension of time.
“This matter involves young people and we do not want to prolong the matter today. If my colleague is ready to discard all the processes, I will be ready to withdraw my motion for extension.
“But if he wants to go ahead to argue the motion, I will have to file a counter application. “This is so because the government has set up a reconciliation panel to look into this and the need to settle the matter,” he said.
He told the court that he had discussed the development with the defence counsel.
Responding, Falana confirmed that he had a discussion with Aondoaka on the way forward in the matter.
“As he (Aondoaka) has observed, the order exparte made by this court expired on Feb. 4. Our motion to have the order quashed has been overtaken by events since it has expired,” he said.
Falana, therefore, sought for the withdrawal of all the processes filed in the matter. We, therefore, pray the court to allow us withdraw the same motion, and that will also affect all other processes filed in this matter.
“I also confirmed that a Judicial Commission of Enquiry are going on on police brutality which spurred the EndSARS protest last year,” he said.
Aondoka, who told the court that the CBN had directed him in the spirit of reconciliation to withdraw the motion for the extension order, assured that he would communicate the court order to the affected banks once he received it.