#EndSARS: Nigerian court rules that blocking bank accounts without court order is unlawful

Nigeria’s Cashless Policy Drive: CBN Introduces Charges on Cash Deposits and Withdrawal Above 500,000
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele…

A federal high court sitting in Abuja has reaffirmed its stand that it is unlawful for a bank to block accounts of its customers without permissible jurisdiction that allows for such. 

The court reaffirmed this in a judgement delivered on the case between Gatefield Nigeria Ltd., a public affairs company, and Access Bank, the defendant. 

In its recent judgment, the court awarded 2 million naira as compensation in favour of Gatefield Nigeria Ltd. whose accounts were restricted by Access Bank. 

The lead strategist for Abuja-based Gatefield, Adewunmi Emoruwa, announced this victory via a tweet along with a document containing the judgement.

Gatefield Nigeria Ltd. VS Access Bank

Gatefield Nigeria Ltd. had earlier, on October 28, 2020, filed a case against Access Bank, accusing the lender of “unilaterally restricting” its accounts. 

According to court documents, they had also demanded damages to the tune of 100 million naira ($262,000). 

See also: Things you should know as CBN/banks commence shutdown of accounts suspected of dealing cryptos 

The firm said the account blocked was used to raise funds to support independent Nigerian journalists who covered the nationwide #EndSARS demonstrations that lasted almost three weeks. 

The illegal withholding of the funds in the said account had largely stalled the firm’s operations during the Endsars protest and prevented it from carrying out its purpose of disbursing funds. 

“As more people contributed to our efforts, we noticed that we could no longer conduct transactions on the dedicated account we used for this particular activity, “

Gatefield

Additionally, the lawsuit was also meant to test whether blocking Gatefield’s account without a court order was unlawful, which the court now reaffirms.

“A successful challenge in court could make the difference for others who were likewise targeted,” Emoruwa said.

This company remains one of the many individuals and organizations that have made allegations on social media that their accounts were restricted during the protests for apparently similar reasons.

According to Anietie Ewang, a Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch, the organisation has “recorded multiple incidents of organisations and people whose bank accounts were seized after receiving or disbursing funds to support the # EndSARS protests.”

Similarly, persons and organisations suspected of trading cryptocurrencies have had their bank accounts targeted for closure by the Central Bank of Nigeria in conjunction with Nigerian banks. While legal practitioners have insisted it is unlawful, it is left to be seen how it plays out going forward.

Last year’s #EndSARS protest

The EndSARS protest from last year is one of the few solidarity movements of Nigerians against injustice and excesses of police brutality in the country.

#EndSARS: Nigerian court affirms blocking bank account without a court order is unlawful
#EndSARS protest, London…

Thousands of people gathered on the streets on Oct. 5 in response to a video that went viral on social media in which agents of the now-defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) physically abused a civilian.

According to reports, more than 70 people died, including at least 22 police officers and military personnel, as the originally peaceful protests devolved into days of rioting and looting across most of the country of more than 200 million people. 

According to Amnesty International, men of the Nigerian Army murdered at least ten people when they opened fire on peaceful demonstrators assembled in Lagos on Oct. 20. The allegation has been refuted by the Nigerian army.

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