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18.08.2021 Featured TIMELINE: From #EndSARS to Fintech, the Legacy of ‘Account Freezer’ Justice Ahmed Mohammed

Published 18th Aug, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

On November 4, 2020, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed gave an ex-parte order for the freezing of the accounts of some individuals linked to the October 2020 #EndSARS protests. On Tuesday, he gave another order to freeze the bank accounts of six Nigerian online investment companies.

If there is one Nigerian judge who loves to freeze accounts, it is Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja. He was born on October 2, 1964, in Bauchi, Bauchi State. He attended Liman Katagum Primary School, Bauchi, from 1972 to 1979, before going to Government Secondary School, Liman Katagum, for his secondary school education.

Subsequently, he went to the Bauchi College of Arts and Science from 1984 to 1986, before proceeding to the University of Maiduguri where he studied law. In 1990, Mohammed was called to the Nigerian bar.

FREEZING OF 65 BANK ACCOUNTS

In August 2020, Mohammed ordered the freezing of 65 bank accounts belonging to 12 firms and a man over alleged manipulation of Nigeria’s foreign exchange market. The order came after the CBN filed an application seeking the court’s intervention pending the conclusion of its investigations into alleged fraudulent activities of the defendants.

During the case, the CBN held that the 12 Chinese-controlled firms and one Adekunle Alonge were the cause of the then volatility and imbalance being witnessed in Nigeria’s foreign exchange with an attendant negative impact on the economy.

… AND 194 BANK ACCOUNTS OF FIRMS, BDCS

On March 30, and following yet another application by the CBN, Mohammed ordered the freezing of bank accounts belonging to some firms and Bureau De Change companies in Nigeria.

In its request, the apex bank had asked the court for an order to freeze the accounts for a period of 180 days, pending the outcome of an investigation it was conducting.

The judge granted a 45-day-freeze, stating that the order would be renewable on expiration if there were strong reasons to do so.

MEDICINE AFTER DEATH FOR #ENDSARS ACCOUNTS

Following a weeklong protest against police brutality in October 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered banks to freeze the accounts of individuals and organisations believed to have made financial contributions to the cause of the protest. That was in mid-October. It took another couple of weeks before CBN ran to the court to obtain the order that was subsequently announced on November 6, 2020. As usual, Mohammed gave another ex-parte order for the freezing of the accounts.

The order, this time, attracted condemnation from within and outside Nigeria, with many holding the belief that the move was an infringement on the fundamental rights to a peaceful protest. The decision to freeze the accounts was also viewed as a way of instilling fear in Nigeria’s aggrieved youths and scaring them away from organizing further protests.

In February 2021, Mohammed later gave an order for the unfreezing of the accounts after both the counsel to the CBN and the legal representative of the protesters agreed to end the case.


FREEZING OF FOREX TRADING PLATFORMS’ ACCOUNTS

In its usual manner, the CBN dragged some of Nigeria’s most prominent online investment companies, such as Bamboo Systems Technology Limited, Rise Vest Technologies Limited, Bamboo Systems Technology Limited OPNS, Chaka Technologies Limited, CTL/Business Expenses, and Trove Technologies Limited to Mohammed’s court recently.

The bank claimed the financial activities of the defendants were being probed for operating without obtaining a licence as asset management companies and utilizing forex sourced from the Nigerian forex market for purchasing foreign bonds or shares.

No guesses. Mohammed froze the accounts and asked aggrieved persons to approach the court for redress.

Published 18th Aug, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

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