Court Orders CBN to Unfreeze Risevest’s Bank Accounts

Last Friday, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to unfreeze Risevest’s accounts which were frozen for 180 days starting from the 17th of August, 2021 by court order following the request of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable investigation on “illegal foreign exchange trading” at Risevest and five other Nigerian fintech companies.

What the court said:

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.

Per Nairametrics, Mr. Seni Adio (SAN), Rise 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, Zenith Bank PLC and Guaranty Trust Bank PLC were ordered by Justice Taiwo to immediately provide the company unrestricted access to the accounts.

Reacting to the court order, a press statement signed by the Risevest team revealed the company’s delight in getting back their accounts. The statement which read:

“We are excited to announce that the Abuja Federal High Court has unfrozen our bank accounts. According to them, we now have “unfettered access” to our accounts.

“We have been engaging with CBN to make sure all the issues raised in the initial announcement and all relevant issues around our business are properly resolved and that we continue to do our work in a safe, compliant and beneficial way.

“During this time, users have been funding and withdrawing as normal and all our services have continued to run. Also, our US operations continue unhindered.

“We thank everyone, especially our amazing users, investors and community for their counsel, encouragement and support. Our mission to connect our users to the best wealth opportunities locally and globally continues and we are excited to continue that journey with you all. Thank you”.