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Nigeria to unfreeze protesters’ bank accounts

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A Nigerian court on Wednesday ordered the Central Bank to unfreeze 20 bank accounts linked to demonstrations that rocked the country last year.

Protesters who drew support from high-profile celebrities around the world had their bank accounts blocked in November after weeks of rallies sparked by police abuses spiraled into unrest.

On Wednesday Judge Ahmed Mohammed issued the order to unfreeze the accounts after the legal teams on both sides decided to end the case.

“The order issued on November 4, 2022 freezing the accounts of the defendants pending the investigation by the Central Bank of Nigeria is hereby set aside,” Mohammed said.

The lawyer representing the bank, Michael Aondoakaa, told the court he was withdrawing the suit in the spirit of “reconciliation.”

“This matter involves young people,” said Aondoakaa. “I talked to my colleagues and I advised, let us discard all the processes. I will withdraw my processes and they will withdraw theirs.”

The defendants’ lawyer, Femi Falana, said the order issued on November 4 had in any case expired last week.

According to Amnesty International, at least 56 people died during the October #EndSARS protests, named after the SARS Special Anti-Robbery Squad at the heart of abuse claims.

Nigerian local authorities have since launched an inquiry into police abuses, but critics say it has not been enough.

In Lagos, Africa’s biggest city, security forces shot at a peaceful crowd of protesters gathered at the Lekki tollgate on October 20.

After the shooting, the army said only blank rounds were fired to disperse the crowds who had defied a curfew.

But Amnesty International said soldiers killed at least 10 protesters.

Activists have called for a new rally on Saturday after the Lagos judicial panel authorised the reopening of the Lekki tollgate.

On social media, the hashtag “OccupyLekkiTollGate” has been widely shared.

Some are worried that the protest could be used as an excuse to loot properties and have called for a counter-protest to take place on Saturday with the hashtag “DefendLagos” also trending on social platforms.

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