A Federal High Court in Abuja has vacated with immediate effect an interim ruling under which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) froze the bank accounts of RiseVest Technologies in two banks.
The Nigerian Central Bank blocked the bank accounts of some fintech platforms, including RiseVest, in August.
The CBN alleged, among other things, that some of the transactions of the affected fintech companies were in violation of its directive and were contributing to the naira’s weakening against the US dollar.
What the court is saying
The parties to the suit are CBN Governor (Plaintiff/Respondent) V Rise Vest Technologies Ltd (1st Defendant/Applicant) & five Others.
The court made the judgment while deciding a Motion on Notice filed by Rise Vest Technologies, asking the court to release an interim freezing order granted by the court on August 17, 2021, in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/822/2021, which The Nation received on Monday.
Mr Seni Adio (SAN), Rist Vest Technologies’ lawyer, had argued that the CBN had not shown any evidence that the defendant had participated in any unlawful conduct, and that the CBN had failed to discharge its burden of proof in support of its claims.
Mr Mathew Onoja, counsel for CBN, claimed that the ex-parte orders sought to be set aside were proper, lawful, and valid.
He claimed that the August 17, 2021 decisions in the case were made in line with Section 97 (1) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) 2021, which allowed the Plaintiff/Respondent to invoke the Court’s jurisdiction via an ex parte application.
Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo upheld Adio’s argument in his ruling. He said the CBN could not depend on a simple circular to freeze a company’s bank account if it was utilizing its bank accounts to trade in cryptocurrencies.
The judge pointed out that the CBN had failed to produce any law demonstrating that dealing in cryptocurrency is prohibited in Nigeria and that the CBN circular, BSD/DIR/PUB/LAB/014/001 dated February 5, 2021, is not a law.
Justice Taiwo in his ruling stated,“I have perused the counter affidavit of the Respondent and I see that the reason for freezing the account of the applicant is based on the alleged infraction of the circular of the CBN.
“Can this court decide this application based on public policy as being urged on it by the learned counsel for the respondent? I think not.
“I hereby discharge the interim freezing order of this court made on August 17, 2021, made against the defendant/ applicant.”
The two banks were ordered by Justice Taiwo to immediately provide the company unrestricted access to the accounts.