The expected litigation floodgates arising from freezing of accounts of individuals and organizations linked with #EndSARS protests has started with Gatefield Nigeria Ltd, a public affairs company, sueing Access Bank Plc for allegedly blocking an account used to promote media coverage of the #EndSARS protests against police brutality in the country.
The company said the blocking of the accounts was an illegal act and is demanding damages of 100 million naira ($262,000), according to court documents.
The company said the restricted account was used to raise funds to support independent Nigerian journalists that covered nationwide demonstrations that lasted over two weeks, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.
“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,” Adewunmi Emoruwa, the lead strategist for Abuja-based Gatefield told Bloomberg.
The lawsuit will test whether blocking Gatefield’s account without a court order was unlawful.
There were other allegations by individuals and organizations on social media that their accounts were restricted during the protests for apparently similar reasons.
“A successful challenge at the court could make the difference for others who were likewise targeted,” Emoruwa said.
Emoruwa said Gatefield was told by Access Bank that it was directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to put restrictions on the account, implemented on Oct. 15.
A spokesman for Access Bank, however, said the bank does not comment on its customers to third parties. The bank did not deny or confirm the allegation by Gatefield, Bloomberg said.
Gatefield’s allegation against Access Bank is not the only case of restriction of flow in finances to sponsor the protest.
A group providing administrative, logistic and legal support for #EndSARS protesters Feminist Coalition also accused Access Bank of restricting their accounts.
Many Nigerians have accused the government of being tyrannical by blocking funding access for the protests which held in major Nigerian cities.
Security forces dispersed the protesters with live ammunition on Tuesday, October 20 at Lekki Toll Plaza, according to eyewitnesses. The protest was hijacked by hoodlums who looted and destroyed private and public properties.
Amnesty International said 12 people died at Lekki toll gate and Alausa on the same day but the Nigerian Army and police have denied the claim.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) said it is investigating issues around the protest.