Examining the Constitutionality of ENDARS Protester’s Frozen Accounts

In the month of May, in the year 2003, the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) had approached the then Inspector General of Police, requesting that it grants them the permit to stage unity rallies throughout the 36 states of the Federation, this request was blatantly turned down by the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police Force without citing any reasons behind his decision to turn down the request.

However, the executives of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) and its members against the decision of the then Inspector General of Police of the Nigerian Police Force went ahead to stage its first rally in the city of Kano and this was on the 22nd of September 2003. This rally as staged by the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) was attended by President Muhammdu Buhari who is now the president of Nigeria; also with him on that fateful day were other party leaders and bigwigs within the aegis of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP).

It was on record that this said protest as organized  by the members of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) was greatly marred with violence as it was disrupted by the men of the Nigerian Police Force who used and applied teargas and other harmful treatments on the protesters. They had claimed that the peaceful protesters had not gotten the required license to hold such rally.

As a result of this, the executives of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) took the matter to court as they sued the Nigerian Inspector General of Police for the gross violation of the constitutional right of every Nigerians to partake or hold peaceful protest in Nigeria. This constitutional provision does not include the need to seek the permission of the government or the Nigerian Police Force. The decision of the Court gave victory to the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) as the court affirmed their right as that of every other Nigerian to organize hold or partake in any peaceful protest in Nigeria. This case is recorded as IGP v. ANPP (2007) 18 NWLR (Pt.1066) 457.

Using the aforementioned to examine the recent action of the Federal Government of Nigeria to use the Central Bank of Nigeria to freeze the personal accounts of ENDSARS protesters in Nigeria can be said to be a gross violation of the constitutional right of these Nigerians.

The Nigerian constitution makes a clear cut provision to back their actions, every Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religious differences, ethnical affiliation, class or status or political affiliation do have the legally backed up right to partake in any peaceful protest in the country, this is also backed up by the United Nation’s Human right charter which allows for the freedom of expression of people. Anything outside this provision to stop or militate against the functionality of this constitutional provision is nothing but a gross violation of the rule of law and also international laws.

To allow such is to give room for autocratic tendencies to set in, one that must be rejected at all cost to protect the tenet and principles of a pure democratic setting, one that we claim to practice in Nigeria.

Arising from the frozen accounts of the ENDSARS protesters, we must ask certain questions regarding the rationality behind such decision; we must ask both the Central Government of Nigeria and also the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari the reasons which necessitated its decision to embark on such move.

More surprising is the role of the central bank of Nigeria in this plot, as stipulated by the European Central Bank president, Christine Lagarde, the basic function and duty of the Central Bank is to ensure the stability of price, even though the duties of this financial institution has evolved over the years to accommodate them being involve in the financial and economic planning of a nation. Based on this role, we must then ask what the relation is that they have with the freezing of the personal accounts of the ENDSARS protesters.

To many their actions are highly uncalled for as it has nothing to do with their basic and primary duties as a financial institution.  For this financial body to have allowed itself to be used by the federal government to perpetuate such action raises important questions against the integrity of the body.

How do they expect the Nigerian populace, a country of over 200,000 million inhabitants to trust them when they have just shown that their allegiance is just to the Presidency and that they can be pulled like puppets to do political biddings of the presidency?

Decency should have given them the second thought that they must be neutral in the discharge of their duties and must not have allowed any act that would put them against the Nigerian populace.

Also, engaging the decision of the executives, that is the presidency one that is believed and expected to be one of the most faithful custodian of the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, one which they were sworn in with upon their inauguration.it is rather disappointing to see them lead the frontline of those who will always make a mockery of the dictate of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Adding to this, this is highly unexpected of a president like President Muhammadu Buhari, one who has been a major beneficial of the constitutional right of freedom to expression, to partake or join any peaceful protest or rally in the country. He has over times shown that to him, the law is not a provision to be respected or valued, but a tool to be used at will, and discarded when necessary.

As a people who are defined by our identity as a Nigerian, we must come to respect the provisions of the constitution which binds us together, one which holds the leash that prevents us from going comatose against the provision of the rule of law. To freeze the accounts of the ENDSARS protesters on the bases that they were used to fund the peaceful protest holds no moral or constitutional water.

November 12, 2020

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