Wilfred Eya, Chinelo Obogo and Chukwudi Nweje
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, the Middle Belt Forum, Northern Youths, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife and others have lambasted the Federal Government for freezing the accounts of masterminds of the #EndSARS protests.
They said peaceful protests remained major ingredients of democracy and cautioned that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has no rights to freeze accounts of the protesters.
At least, accounts of 20 #EndSARS promoters, including Oluwarinu Oduala, member of the Lagos State Panel of Judicial Inquiry probing the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki toll gate, was recently frozen on the directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) following a court order obtained by the Federal Government.
But Ohanaeze questioned where the Federal Government as represented by the CBN derived its powers to freeze accounts of those who embarked on a peaceful protest in a democracy.
National Publicity Secretary of the Igbo umbrella group, Uche Achi- Okpaga, said: “Is it a criminal act to sponsor peaceful protests? On what grounds is the Federal Government freezing accounts of the alleged sponsors of the protests? Is the CBN just playing to the gallery. Have they frozen the accounts of all the criminals in Nigeria including those in government?”
For Afenifere, the socio-cultural organisation of the Yoruba, the move by the CBN is not only uncalled for but the height of recklessness by the Federal Government.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said such action showed clear lack of capacity by the present government to manage challenges facing the country.
“Freezing the accounts of the alleged sponsors of the protests is uncalled for and it is the height of high-handedness and these fascist tendencies would not help the country. How do you determine sponsors of the protests? Instead of calming the tension, you are rather worsening it. The government should not incite #EndSARS part two.” he warned.
The Middle Belt Forum said actions of the Federal Government showed that it was afraid of what is coming.
Its president, Dr. Pogu Bitrus said: “We have this adage that if a snake bites you, when you see a rope, you start running. So, the government is frightened of what is coming because they know that things are not going on well and that they are not doing the right thing. The youths have done the right thing by bringing the issues to the fore, so why are their accounts being frozen just because they were able to provide biscuits and water during the protests?”
Spokesman of the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, also said freezing their accounts was uncalled for, describing it as unnecessary complication of the problems facing the nation.
He said government admitted that the protesters did not have leaders and expressed surprises that it is freezing accounts of alleged sponsors of the protests.
Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria and Yiaga Africa warned that implementing the court order would have grave implications towards building citizens’ confidence in the judicial panel and in its ability to ensure justice for victims of police brutality.
The CSOs raised the alarm in a joint statement signed by EiE’s Executive Director, Yemi Adamolekun and Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programmes, Cynthia Mbamalu, in Abuja yesterday.
Former Anambra governor, Ezeife said people have a right to protest in a democracy and berated the Federal Government.
“We’re not in a dictatorship and this kind of action should not be tolerated,” he said,
Former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and founder of United Peoples Party (UPP), Chekwas Okorie said: “The president clearly told the whole world that the voices of the protesters have been heard and that all the five-points demands they made have been approved and they are going to be implemented immediately. It was an approval of the legitimacy of the protest by the President of Nigeria.
“There are two classes of people here; those who the president acknowledged are legitimate protesters and hoodlums who later hijacked and destroyed public, private property. Those hoodlums don’t have accounts worth freezing and it is a contradiction to round and freeze accounts of those legitimately protesting for better welfare for police and anti SARS brutality. The government needs to have a rethink on its strategy.”
Former Presidential candidate of the National Conscience party (NCP), Martins Onovo, said the action of the CBN in freezing the bank accounts is provocative.
“This was a peaceful protest, it is provocative to freeze their bank accounts,” he said.
Former president of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike who described it as “double shuffle and hostile” said by the action, government has proved it cannot be trusted.
Another lawyer, Onyekachi Ubani, former chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, condemned the judiciary for granting the order to freeze the accounts without hearing from the accused persons.
But Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammhed, said it is wrong to fund political agitation.
“Whatever was the origin of EndSARS, it has become a political organisation for agitation against the government or against anybody they can see. Unless somebody can prove to me that what the CBN did and they are legally authorised by law and the CBN regulations, I don’t see any problem with that,” he said.