NIGERIA MAY HAVE SURVIVED a near anarchy, unleashed on the nation by hoodlums, who hijacked #EndSARS peaceful protests, by Nigerian youth, who demanded an end to police brutality and good governance in the country. But the underpinning lessons from the protests, gradually, are been played down and eroded by the authorities of the country. Politics, distrust and highhandedness seems to have taken over the lessons.
Nationally and internationally, the message of the protesting youth was a clarion call – “stop police brutality” across the country. Put in place “good governance” that will address the plights of the teaming unemployed youth in the country. Clear as the message was, some leaders in the international community intervened and added their voices. They urged President Buhari to listen to the demands of the protesting youth.
President Buhari, acknowledged the peaceful protests and conducts of the youth during the protests. He stated that he got the message of the protesting youth “loud and clear”. Even though, he did not address the demands and concerns of the youth directly and in good time. But he took advantage of other occasions, and restated his government’s commitment to address the demands of the youth.
Former Nigerian leaders in the country – Olusegun Obasanjo, Abudusalami Abubakar, Atiku Abubakar, among others, added their voices. They equally, acknnowledged the concerns and demands of the protesting youth, and urged President Buhari to be cautious in handling the protests, and should not employ brute force, in dealing with the volatile situation.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in several tweets, at the heat of the #EndSARS protests, acknowledged that it was a peaceful protest. Specifically, he stated that he stood by the youth in their demands. Governors of Nigeria’s 36 States, followed suit. They swung into action and set up judicial commission of inquiries, to deeply investigate and unravel gross abuse of police brutality against their citizens, as well as, human right violation in their respective states.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, Nigeria’s House of Representative, at plenary, during the protests, acknowledged the plights of Nigerian youth and their demands. He said, he and his colleagues at the lower chamber of the National Assembly, would not sign-off the 2021 national budget for implementation, without making adequate provisions in the budget to address issues raised by the youth during the protests.
THEN CONTRADICTION by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, sets in. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, through instrumentality of a High Court, froze the Bank Accounts of some of the #EndSARS protesters. In a suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1384/2020, filed before Justice A. R. Mohammed, the CBN alleged that the funds in the accounts, may have emanated from terrorist activities.
By means of the suit, the CBN secured an order to freeze the accounts of 20 persons who engaged in the #EndSARS protests. 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. CBN stated that the actions of the persons mentioned contravened the nation’s extant laws and regulations. CBN further stated that the transactions in the accounts, could cause significant economic and security harm to the country, if not checked.
CBN written address stated: “My lord, the nature of the transactions undertaken through the defendants’ accounts are of suspected terrorism financing in contravention of Section 13(1)(a) and (b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and Regulation 31(2)(a) and (3)(b) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2013.”
Freezing the bank accounts of some of the protesters, according to legal opinions and analysts, resonates unhealthy move by the CBN. The CBN is the apex banking institution of government in country, and it is directly supervised by Nigerian government. The core mandates of CBN, financial analysts say are the regulation of government monetary policy, as well as, regulation of financial institutions in the country.
CBN’s delving into the politics of #EndSARS protests, they argue, could be likened to doing a “hatchet man’s job” for government. The government that has been exploring avenues to criminalize the protesters. CBN, they say, falls short of its responsibilities and independence; as simply, a financial regulatory institution in the country. They asked, if Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, could rightly, dissociate himself and the apex Bank, as not been used by the government as reprisal instrument to criminalize the #EndSARS protesters.
The #ENDSARS protesting youth, stayed long in the streets across the country protesting, and refused to step down the protests, because of what they described as their “fear of government’s insincerity” in meeting their demands. Even though there were calls by well-meaning Nigerians for an end the protests, after government had promised that their demands would be adequately addressed. It now, appeared, their fears are justified.
The CBN’s action, in freezing the Accounts of some of the protesters, according to analysts, now fuels the fears of #EndSARS protesters about the government sincerity in addressing the demands of the protesting youth. They also, argue, that the CBN action was an “exercise in futility”, and smacks of sincerity, professional conducts of an appex bank, and breach of trust by Nigerian youth. And portends the ruffling of the already volatile nest of unrest in the country.