Members of the Nigerian community in Canada are calling on Ottawa to condemn their home country’s decision to freeze 20 bank accounts linked to recent protests against police brutality.
The bank accounts, linked to prominent participants of the #EndSARS protesters have been restricted following a federal court ruling in Abuja and an investigation by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Amnesty International said it has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began last month.
Nigerians have been taking to the streets, peacefully demanding an end to police brutality, extrajudicial executions and extortion by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian police tasked with fighting violent crimes, the human rights group said.
According to Amnesty International, at least 56 people have died across the country since protests began. In multiple cases, the security forces have used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.
The government says 51 civilians and 22 policemen died as the initially peaceful protests against the excesses of the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, degenerated into days of rioting and looting across most of the country of more than 200 million people.
The Coalition of Nigerians in Canada (CONIC) said the decision to freeze the bank accounts is “obnoxious and a confirmation that it (Nigerian government) had resorted to intimidation and harassment of real and imaginary enemies.”
Growing interest in emigrating to Canada
In a statement carried by Nigerian news portals, CONIC said Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had been turned into an agent of intimidation and could now “frivolously” secure an order to freeze the accounts of the government’s perceived enemies and those they see as the brains behind the #EndSARS movement.
“As Nigerians living in Canada, we do not believe that it is against the law for Nigerian citizens to protest any perceived injustice against police brutality, corruption, and government’s inaction, insensitivity, and fiscal irresponsibility of governments at all levels,” the statement said.
“We, the Coalition of Nigerians in Canada (CONIC) join the other groups of Nigerians in the Diaspora to condemn the government’s action in freezing the bank accounts of free Nigerian citizens while the bank accounts of rogues and bandits in government are left untouched, and are free to enjoy their loots.”
“CONIC will be calling on our host government to intervene and impose economic and diplomatic sanctions if need be. In this age and advancement of democracy all over the world, Nigeria cannot reverse into militocracy by unleashing terror on its people, as is currently apparent,” read the statement, which was signed by CONIC coordinators, Yemi Adegbite, Kemi Amusan and Femi Boyede.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has also lent its voice to condemn the attacks on the protestors in Nigeria.
“We condemn this violence. The protesters are demanding an end to police brutality; accountability for extrajudicial killings, rape, torture and extortion by police officers; and policing reforms. These demands must be heard and acted upon,” CUPE, Canada’s largest union with over 700,00 members, said in a statement.
“We further join the international community in calling for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into all cases of human rights violations by the police, and for access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria, in a notice posted on Twitter, said it has been receiving “great interest” in Canadian immigration programs, in the wake of the unrest.
It clarified that Canadian Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, Consulates General or Honorary Consulates do not accept refugee applications directly from people.
The High Commission also warned Nigerians not to be taken in by people who claim they can fast track immigration and refugee applications to Canada.
Nigeria is the fourth-leading source country of new arrivals to Canada, behind India, China, and the Philippines. A total of 12,600 Nigerians gained permanent residence in 2019, a tripling of Nigerian immigration to Canada since 2015.
Nigeria is also a hotbed for corruption and visa scams according to reports posted by the Research Directorate of Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.