Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has given reasons why the Nigerian government has yet to obey Wednesday’s court order to unfreeze bank accounts of 20 #EndSARS protesters.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had on Wednesday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unfreeze the accounts of #EndSARS campaigners targeted by the apex bank after last year’s anti-police brutality demonstrations.
The judge, Ahmed Mohammed, issued the order unfreezing the accounts after the legal teams of both the CBN and the 20 defendants decided to end the case on Wednesday.
But speaking on Sunrise Daily, a Channels TV programme on Thursday, Malami said the Nigerian government had yet to comply with the court judgment because it was still weighing options as allowed by the law on such matters.
He said, “We need to take in a lot of factors with particular reference to the compliance with the court order and within the context of striking a balance; the options that are available are multiple. One, the consideration of or a possibility of wholehearted compliance with the court order; that is, comprehensive, unconditional compliance with the order relating to the unfreezing of the #EndSARS account.
“But, that does not take away the right of the government to give a further consideration when the need arises. A consideration, for example, of exercising the right of appeal against the order, of exercising a right of appeal against the order if the need arises coupled with the right of stay of execution of the order or perhaps, application of variation of the order, among others.
“While the government has chosen to exercise those rights and indeed an appeal of variation of the court order or an appeal for setting aside the order or perhaps stay of execution of the order, you cannot within the context of the rule law adjudge the government as operating in breach of the order.
“It all depends on, for example, where parties unilaterally settle for an arrangement or the order is a product of settlement arrangement. I think the possibility of considering options associated with the appeal of variation of the order or setting aside the court order may not necessarily come into play.
“But where it indeed is a product of contentions between the party ‘A’ saying, ‘this is the way it is’, and the other party saying no, ‘this is the way it is’, the court will now decide to make a ruling one way or the other. So, the right of appeal, right of application to set aside the court order, or perhaps, maybe a staying of execution of the order may come into play.
“It all depends on the prevailing circumstances. It is the prevailing circumstances that determine what decisions, what provision, what direction the party involved in the suit or the party affected by the order will consider as the next line of action to take.”
The apex bank had in October 2020 asked banks to freeze accounts of 20 #EndSARs protesters.
Some of the affected individuals include Bolatito Racheal Oduala, Chima David Ibebunjoh, Mary Doose Kpengwa, Gatefield Nigeria Limited, Saadat Temitope Bibi, Bassey Victor Israel, Wisdom Busaosowo Obi, Nicholas Ikhalea Osazele, Ebere Idibie, Akintomide Lanre Yusuf, Uhuo Ezenwanyi Promise, Mosopefoluwa Odeseye and Adegoke Pamilerin Emmanuel.
Others are Umoh Grace Ekanem, Babatunde Victor Segun, Mulu Louis Teghenan, Mary Oshifowora, Winifred Akpevweoghene Jacob, Victor Solomon, and Idunu A. Williams.
The #EndSARS protests, which were held for 13 days in various parts of the country, called for the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the police and urged the government to carry out general police reforms.
Donations were received in various currencies including naira and dollars using Flutterwave to provide food, medical care, and legal aid to protesters.
However, the donation link was disabled and subsequently moved to Bitcoin.