Access Bank, Nigeria’s biggest lender, is accused of illegally blocking an account used to promote media coverage of protests against police brutality that recently swept Africa’s most populous country. Gatefield Nigeria Ltd., a public affairs company, filed a case against the lender in a federal court in Abuja on 28 October, accusing the lender of “unilaterally restricting” its account and demanding damages of ₦100 million, according to court documents. The account was used to raise funds to support independent Nigerian journalists that covered nationwide demonstrations that lasted almost three weeks, according to the firm. The lawsuit will test whether blocking Gatefield’s account without a court order was unlawful. There were other allegations by individuals and organisations 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,” Adewunmi Emoruwa, the lead strategist for Abuja-based Gatefield told Bloomberg. Gatefield was told by Access Bank that it was directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to put restrictions on the account, implemented on 15 October, Emoruwa said. A spokesman for Access Bank said the lender doesn’t comment on its customers to third parties. A spokesman for the central bank didn’t respond to emails and calls seeking comment. Human Rights Watch, the New York-headquartered rights group has “documented several cases of organizations and individuals whose bank accounts were frozen after receiving or disbursing funds to support the #EndSARS protests,” its Nigeria researcher, Anietie Ewang, said by email.
The International Criminal Court says it is conducting a preliminary examination into the #EndSARS protests which resulted in the killing of scores of protesters and security personnel. The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, in a statement to the BBC on Wednesday said her office had received information on the alleged crimes. The examination, ICC said, will “assess whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute are met.” The court said it would make findings of the preliminary examination public. Following the shootings of protesters by soldiers at the Lekki toll gate, Lagos, a coalition of civil society organisations had asked the ICC to commence a probe of arbitrary killings of the #EndSars protesters at different demonstration grounds across the country. The group which comprised 30 CSOs in a statement described the killings as unacceptable. About 51 civilians and over 28 police officers and seven soldiers were killed during the violence that trailed the Lekki shootings of 20 October, 2020. The CSOs comprising the Centre for Democracy and Development, Global Rights, BudgIT and 27 others say they have documentary evidence on injustices against the peaceful protesters.
Ministers from the South-West have urged the FG to probe the role of soldiers in the shootings of protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday, October 20. They also called on the Federal Government to assist the Lagos State Government in restoring some of the public facilities destroyed in the aftermath of the recent #EndSARS protests in the state. They identified 15 police stations, the State High Court building, and others as parts of facilities destroyed during the period. The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed these to State House correspondents on Wednesday at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.). Fashola said he briefed the council, on behalf of his colleagues, how they executed the presidential directive of October 21, 2020 that ministers should visit their states and state governors. On the Lekki shootings, Fashola added, “We also urged the Federal Government to undertake a thorough investigation into what happened in the Lekki Toll Plaza, particularly the role of the military and ensure that the outcome is made public with a view to achieving closure on the matter.
Fighting and gunshots have been reported in Tigray after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive in the northern Ethiopian region. Military operations in the region have commenced, Abiy’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday. Internet access monitor NetBlocks said internet and mobile lines in the region have been shut down. The airspace over Tigray is also closed. Abiy ordered the offensive earlier on Wednesday following what he said was an attack by regional Tigray forces on a federal military base. “The last red line has been crossed,” Abiy declared in a televised address on Wednesday morning, warning that “the end is near” for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLG), which rules Tigray. Federal authorities also imposed a six-month state of emergency on the region. Analysts have been warning for months that rising tensions between the federal government and the TPLF could spill into civil war. The row escalated in September after Tigray held regional elections in defiance of the federal government, which called the vote “illegal”. A report published last month by the United States Institute of Peace said the fragmentation of Ethiopia “would be the largest state collapse in modern history.” It would “likely leading to mass interethnic and interreligious conflict … and a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East on a scale that would overshadow the existing conflicts in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.”