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Muiz Banire Leadership Talks: CBN freezing protesters accounts is abominable, reckless


Distinguished readers, you are welcome to today’s episode of our #LeadershipTalks. I am addressing events unfolding as the aftermath of the #Endsars protests.

The issues that led to the protest and the impacts are known to us all, hence I do not intend to bore you with the story again.

However, I must intimate us with the fact that there is a clear distinction between the Endsars protesters and those who perpetrated all manners of crimes in the process.

The former had their protests for more than eleven days without any violence in Lekki and Alausa, even in the absence of security operatives that are meant to provide security cover.

They provided their own security, even while thugs allegedly sponsored by government attacked them. The attack of 20th October, 2020 at Lekki was certainly in my humble view unprovoked.

There was a curfew that had not matured before attempt at dispersal of the crowd through firing, whether blank or no blank took place.

The premature invasion of the venue is sufficient to indict those involved. I leave other points to the judicial panel set up to review the crisis and its effects.

For the perpetrators of the crimes, I am of the opinion, while not condoning the acts, that several factors accounted for the misconducts.

These range from the premature and probable premeditated invasion, through the state-promoted miscreants to the economic suffocation and frustration of the people.

I am not interrogating this further as it is not my destination, and besides, I have addressed the issue largely in my column in the Sun newspapers , “Reaping the fruits of our labour”.

Now to the crux of today’s discussion. The news in town is that some of the identified arrowhead of the protests are now being persecuted in one form or the other, ranging from impounding of passports, through freezing of accounts, to all sorts of arrest.

This is being done inspite of the presidential recognition of the democratic right to protest and the invitation and pronouncement to engage the youths who constituted the bulkwalk of the protests.

Is this the right approach in the circumstances, considering the essence of leadership? I think not.

Let me state first, without conceding that if the mode of exercise of the rights by the protesters is wrong, shouldn’t government exercise maturity by engaging the youths towards correction than harassment?

Should government, denoted by the political leaders, not be interested in promoting vocal and courageous youth rather than docile youth?

What precedent are we setting as leaders if victimisation, harassment and intimidation are the template we are setting for them? Are we teaching them vindictiveness?

I believe Nigerians generally must be worried about this. In respect of the impoundment of passport, allow me to commend the civility of the Nigerian Immigration Service and by extension, the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Though the trigger was certainly not from the Agency, the speed of resolution is commendable. For the arrest, I do not have so much reservation on that as anyone can be invited and investigated.

What is condemnable will be where torture is adopted or illegal detention is done. As at date, I am not aware of any of this.

As per the freezing of the accounts, however, it is abominable and reckless. In the first instance, the power vested in the Central Bank is in my view unconstitutional and questionable.

CBN is not a crime investigation department and constitutionally cannot investigate crime. That being so, it cannot be freezing people’s accounts on ground of any suspected crime. The Bank is the examiner of commercial bank accounts and not individual’s accounts.

Obtaining ex parte order to enquire and investigate private accounts is certainly beyond its brief. What is the function of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit?

Furthermore, under the Terrorism Act, CBN is not an agency recognised for the purpose of freezing accounts. Again, freezing accounts for up to six months ex parte is unconstitutional as there is still right to fair hearing in our constitution.

During that freezing period, what happens to the private and family life of those affected? I am aware the court said they can come forth to challenge the order, who pays for the process and where do they get the fund when their accounts have been frozen?

Remember these are struggling youth propelled to protest in the first instance by economic frustration. The freezing of the accounts, I believe, is unkind to say the least.

In fact, not allowing the appropriate security agencies to do their work is a continuous decimation of the various security agencies.

What expertise does the CBN have in investigating terrorism and other crimes? The Bank remains in recent times a meddlesome interloper in affairs that do not concern it. In my strongest view, I believe, all Nigerians must rise up against this power being arrogated to the Bank.

I can assure all Nigerians that the power being used against the youths today is a bad precedent that will, in the nearest future, be politically used against the proponents and any other Nigerian. History abound with this.

Not boring you further on this, I am of the considered view that the engagement promise by the government is the best option in the circumstances. The protest occurred in the first place as a result of lack of trust in government.

Now, instead of building that confidence in the youth and others, the ignoble acts of the overzealous government officials will further widen the gulf of distrust. This is not good for any administration.

The earlier, the better the leaders wake up to the reality that no degree of force can surpress any idea whose time has come. The conditions warranting the protest are still prevailing.

Honey Hill Global Resources interjects while replying to Banire:

Oga Muhiz, who are the sponsors of the miscreants if not you politicians. You can’t exonerate yourself

Muiz Banire responds:

Please accept my regrets. I left politics more than two years ago as a professional. I have never been a professional politician with any ambition. Please count me out, if you know my pedigree and position on this even while in government, certainly you won’t have that impression.

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