Allege denial of fair hearing, abuse of judicial process
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Fourteen out of the twenty alleged #EndSARS promoters that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, secured an order to freeze their bank accounts, on Thursday, approached the Federal High Court in Abuja to set-aside the order.
In a motion they filed through their team of lawyers led by human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, the Applicants, maintained that they were denied fair hearing by the court.
The Applicants accused the CBN of not only lying to the court when it painted them as suspected terrorists, but also engaging in gross abuse of the judicial process.
They contended that the freezing order the court issued against them on November 4, was “anchored on misrepresentation of material facts and based on suppression of material facts” by the CBN.
Listing 13 grounds the court should consider and unfreeze their accounts, the Applicants, argued; “That the ex-parte order made on the 4th day of November, 2020, by this Honorable Court was made to validate an illegal act.
“The Plaintiff/Respondent unlawfully froze the accounts of the Defendants/Applicants before seeking and obtaining the orders of this Honourable Court on November 4, 2020.
“This Honorable Court on the 4th day of November, 2020 pursuant to an ex parte application brought by the Plaintiff/Respondent, made a mandatory order, inter alia, empowering the Plaintiff/Applicant to direct the head of Access Bank of Nigeria Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank Plc, Guarantee Trust Bank Plc, United Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc to freeze forthwith all transactions on the 20 Bank Accounts of the Defendants/Applicants for a period of 90 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry currently being conducted by the CBN without affording the Respondents/Applicants the right of fair hearing.
“The said order of the Honorable Court permitting the Plaintiff/Respondent to freeze the Applicants account for a period of 90 days (renewable for another 90 days) breached the fundamental right of the Defendants/Applicants, to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004 in that no fair hearing was granted the applicant/respondent before the order was made.
“The order permitting the Plaintiff/Respondent to freeze the Defendants/Applicants account violates Order 26 Rules 5, 10 And 11(1) and (2) Of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2019 which prescribes a maximum period of 14 days as the duration of an ex parte order.
“The Plaintiff/Respondent is neither one of the investigative agencies nor prosecuting agencies recognized under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 and the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013.
“The said other violated the rights of the Defendants/Applicants to own movable property.
“There was no urgency warranting the grant of the order exparte.
“No Motion-on-Notice was filed together with the Motion Ex Parte.
“The Ex Parte order made by the Honorable Court has determined the fundamental right of the Defendants/Applicants without affording them fair hearing.
“No undertaking was made as to damages.
“The order Ex Parte was anchored on misrepresentation of material facts and based on suppression of material facts.
“The order ex parte constitutes a gross abuse of the process of this Honorable Court”, the Applicants added.
More so, in a 27-paragraphed supporting affidavit that was deposed to by Marshal Abubakar, a lawyer in Falana’s Chambers, the Applicants, said they were never afforded the opportunity to defend the terrorism allegation the CBN made against them, before the ex-parte order was made, contrary to the the provision of Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
The told the court that the CBN had since October,
ordered banks to freeze all the accounts belonging to them, even before it approached the court for the ex-parte order.
“That on October 15, 2020, the accounts of the Defendants/Applicants were frozen by their respective banks on the orders of the Plaintiff/Respondent without notice and lawful justification.
“That the Plaintiff/Respondent approached this honorable court by way of motion ex-parte to legalize the illegal freezing of the Defendants/Applicants accounts.
“That an ex-parte order was made on the 4th day of November, 2020, by which this Honorable Court froze the Respondents/Applicants’ accounts based on allegation (s) bordering on terrorism.
“That the Plaintiff/Respondent failed and or neglected to furnish this Honourable Court the ground for such belief.
“That the Plaintiff/Respondent’s motion ex parte did not disclose any fact capable of linking the Defendants /Applicants to any terrorism activity”.
The Applicant said they would suffer economic hardship, unless the court vacated the order it made against them.
“That unless the order by this Honourable Court made on the 14th of October, 2019 freezing all transaction in the Respondent/Applicant accounts is set aside or discharged in its entirety, the Respondent/Applicant’s business in Nigeria will be completely ruined”, they added.
It will be recalled that the court had in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, granted CBN leave to freeze accounts of 20 alleged #EndSARS promoters till January 2021.
The 20 persons the CBN listed as Defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, are; Bolatito Oduala, Chima Ibebunjoh, Mary Kpengwa, Gatefield Nigeria Limited, Saadat Bibi, Bassey Israel, Wisdom Obi, Nicholas Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Yusuf, Uhuo Promise, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye and Adegoke Emmanuel.
As well as, Umoh Ekanem, Babatunde Segun, Mulu Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Jacob, Victor Solomon, and Idunu Williams.
The court ordered that their accounts should be frozen for an initial period of 90 days that will be subject to renewal upon an application by the CBN.
The court said the order was to allow CBN to conclude its investigations, even as it adjourned the matter till February 4, 2021.