Nigeria's central bank freezes accounts of police brutality protesters

ABUJA, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s central bank froze the accounts of 20 people linked with anti-police brutality protests after receiving a court order, the regulator said.

Many of those affected were prominent during Nigerian protests last month known as #EndSARS, one of the West African country’s biggest social upheavals in 20 years, which attracted global attention as thousands of people campaigned for an end to police brutality.

The demonstrations came to a head on Oct. 20 when security forces opened fire and killed at least 12 protesters in Lagos, according to witnesses and Amnesty International. The army and police have denied the killings.

A federal high court judge ordered the bank accounts to be frozen “for a period of 90 days pending the outcome of investigation and inquiry currently being conducted by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” the central bank said in a statement late on Friday.

It did not say why the account holders were being investigated, but added that the 90-day order may be renewed.

A central bank spokesman told Reuters the judge had granted the order without any of those affected or their legal representatives present.

Among those whose accounts were frozen is Rachael Oduala Bolatito, who is representing protesters on a judicial panel investigating the Oct. 20 shootings.

The panel had been due to convene in Lagos on Saturday but was adjourned to Nov. 14 after she and another representative for the demonstrators boycotted the meeting due to the central bank’s action, according to Adesina Ogunlana, the lawyer for the protesters.

Nigerian immigration officials have also blocked another activist, whose name was not on the list of accounts frozen, from leaving the country and confiscated her passport, Ogunlana told Reuters.

Reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Nneka Chile and Libby George in Lagos; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Mike Harrison