Every time you think there is a ray of hope for a truly democratic Nigeria, the government pulls a trick off its sleeves and reminds Nigerians how misplaced such thoughts of freedom in Nigeria may be.
The frozen accounts of 20 #EndSARS protesters including Bolatito Olorunrinu Oduala, the #EndSARS campaigner, who was given a seat on the Lagos State judicial panel, served as yet another reminder of how phony our democracy is.
The Federal Government was able to freeze the accounts of these #EndSARS protesters after presenting zero evidence to Federal High Court in Abuja that their accounts were linked to terrorist activities.
The case in its entirety makes a mockery of the justice system of the country, as the FG was able to prove yet again that a Nigerian can be punished by the law with out any evidence of their alleged crime whatsoever.
It’s even more insulting that the Central Bank of Nigeria had already frozen the accounts of some of these #EndSARS protesters prior to approaching the court to seek an ex parte order to freeze the accounts.
Even before getting permission from the court, CBN took the sort of brash action that could land even the most influential financial institution in the world- a law suit, should it have happened in a clime where laws are above everyone.
Head of the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Governor’s Department, CBN, Joseph Omayuku, conducted the investigation into the accounts of the defendants and other individuals and concluded that owners of the account may have been involved in terrorist activities. No grounds were given on the accusation, the accusation in itself was all the reason they needed to label these innocent individuals terrorists.
To make things worse, the bank also noted that unless the order was granted, it would not be able to ensure that the money in the accounts remained intact, while investigations were ongoing.
Asides defamation, and an aggressive attempt to wreck the fundamental rights of the Nigerian citizen, this sort of action is also in pure violation of the law which states that an ex-parte order can’t last beyond 14 days except an application is made for extension at its end. In this case however, the judge granted 180 days. The CBN is going the extra length in this case even if it means breaking the law themselves.
It also doesn’t help that this same energy is barely existent when it comes to the accounts of political figures who have actually been involved in fraudulent scandals. Not to mention that CBN prior to this, has shown very little concern to the financial transactions in the country that may be funding the terrorist group Boko Haram. If the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had not caught those 6 Nigerians that were allegedly funding Boko Haram, it may have remained a mirage that names and faces can be attached to the perennial claims that some Nigerians are sponsoring the terrorist group.
The decision to freeze the bank accounts of #EndSARS protesters is daunting to the morale of citizens of Nigeria as it relates to exercising their fundamental rights. If the FG fails to provide proof that the frozen accounts were linked to terrorist activities, this autocratic action tells people that whenever they choose to maybe protest next time, they too could be labelled terrorists.
In hind sight, stifling people’s right to demonstrate peacefully with some whitewash allegations may inadvertently force citizens to look for other means to voice their opinions and grievances when they are fed up with the system. Logically speaking, if peaceful demonstrations are off the table, the only other option left (for those it appeals to) is a violent revolt.
This sort of action by the CBN and the Federal government has been the catalyst to many hostile historic events by a people to its government, and the Nigerian government must thread lightly with the type of messages they send.
If government continues to act in lawlessness – kidnapping people and calling it an arrest, freezing people’s account without following legal processes, shooting at peaceful protesters, how long will it take before the people begin to respond chaotically to such impudent behavior?
For Chinedu Okafor, its all about making an impact with words, creating a profound impression on the audience with the intended narrative.