Access Bank Plc has been alleged of illegally barring access to an account used for the promotion of the media coverage of the #EndSARS protests and campaign against police brutality across the country, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.
A public affairs firm, Gatefield Nigeria Limited, recently filed a suit against the bank for “unilaterally restricting” its account and sought for an award of N100 million in damages, court documents showed.
Gatefield claimed the account in question was used to gather funds to back independent Nigerian journalists reporting the protests, which spanned roughly three weeks.
“As more people contributed to our efforts, we noticed that we could no longer conduct transactions on the dedicated account we used for this particular activity,” said Adewunmi Emoruwa, Gatefield’s lead strategist.
The arbitration will determine the propriety and legality of blocking the company’s account without recourse to a court order.
Accusations have also been made by persons and organisations across the social media of their bank accounts being restricted in the course of the demonstrations for seemingly related reasons.
“A successful challenge at the court could make the difference for others who were likewise targeted,” Emoruwa said.
Access Bank reportedly informed Gatefield it had an order from the central bank to restrict the account, executed on 15th October.
Over 70 people, comprising no fewer than 22 policeman lost their lives as the earlier peaceful demonstrations against high-handedness of the police’s special anti-robbery unit escalated into violence and looting nationwide.
Amnesty International said security forces murdered a minimum of 10 people as they fired into a protesting crowd in Lagos on 20th October. But the Nigerian army has denied the accusation.
New-York based Human Rights Watch has “documented several cases of organizations and individuals whose bank accounts were frozen after receiving or disbursing funds to support the #EndSARS protests,” said Anietie Ewang, its Nigerian researcher.
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