The Nigerian government came under fire on Wednesday for tagging #EndSARS campaigners as terrorists with prominent citizens and groups condemning the Central Bank of Nigeria's action, which led to the freezing of the accounts of some of the campaigners.
The government had succeeded in freezing the accounts of 20 #EndSARS campaigners after telling a Federal High Court in Abuja that the funds in their accounts might have been linked to terrorist activities.
This was according to a written address in support of a motion ex parte filed by the CBN, which froze 20 accounts in the second week of October and after that approached the court to seek an ex parte order to freeze the accounts, Punch reports.
In the case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed, the CBN, however, made no mention of the fact that the 20 accounts were owned by persons involved in the #EndSARS protests, but told the court that the funds might have emanated from terrorist activities.
The Nigerian Bar Association said on Wednesday that blocking the accounts of #EndSARS protesters on the pretext that they were terrorism suspects showed that the Federal Government was insincere.
Speaking for the body of lawyers in an interview with The PUNCH, the Publicity Secretary of the association, Dr Raps Nduka, maintained that the #EndSARS protests were lawful and the demands of the campaigners genuine.
He added that the action of the Federal Government through the CBN in blocking the accounts of the promoters of the movement showed that the government was insincere with its promise to address their demands.
Nduka said, "The timing looks very suspicious. The protests are lawful, and the demands of the protesters and the concerns they expressed are genuine.
"What has happened shows that the protesters were right to insist that they were not going to leave the streets because, over time, the government would promise something and do the opposite. This action of the CBN lends credence to the position taken by the youth.
"Even if the government is right, who will believe it at this time? The government makes it look like it is trying to silence people from talking about the ills of society. Why does the government appear to be doing that?
"It tells us that the government may not be doing anything to ensure that the complaints are being addressed. It also tells us that their original claims that they were standing with the youth were pretences. You cannot be standing with them and freeze their accounts. It does not work that way.
"Let us assume that the allegations are true: what happens to discrete investigation? Why should they block the accounts of persons because you are investigating them? Why don't they be on the trail of the money going into the accounts, assuming the allegations are true?
"The time is very suspicious. It lends credence to the belief of the average Nigerian that the government is not being sincere."
Reacting to the apex bank's action, a prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, on Wednesday described the Federal Government's tagging of the promoters of the #EndSARS protests as terrorists as unlawful, unconstitutional and insensitive.
Ozekhome, who said he found it hard to believe that the CBN made such a claim in the application filed to obtain the court order freezing the accounts, noted that the Nigerian Constitution guaranteed the rights to protest.
He said, "Who is saying that peaceful protests on the streets of Nigeria by Nigerians, who are constitutionally entitled under sections 37 and 38 of the Constitution to protest, to assemble, to associate, to move freely, to kick against bad government policies, to demonstrate on the streets peacefully, to sing, to dance and to hold a rally, are terrorism? Who is the person saying that these amount to terrorism? What can this government not do to give a dog a bad name to hang it?
"So, the government does not know that the herdsmen are the real terrorists? The government does not know that Boko Haram members are the real terrorists? The government does not know that the rampaging kidnappers are the real terrorists? The government does not know that the bandits are the real terrorists? The government does not know that those in government stealing the commonwealth belonging to the people are the real terrorists?"