The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed concern as the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Ekaette Obot sent a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, to prison.
President of the Association, Olumide Akpata, said “I have received with great concern the news of the detention of one of our members, Inibehe Effiong, at a correctional facility in Akwa Ibom State, on account of what transpired on Wednesday 27 July 2022 during proceedings in the court of the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State.
Premium Times reports that Mr Effiong, who is handling a case for his client before Justice Obot’s court in Uyo, disclosed his ordeal in a message he posted on his WhatsApp status around 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday.
“I have been sent to Uyo prison by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, for one month for defending Leo Ekpenyong in a libel suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel,” Mr Effiong said in the WhatsApp message.
The lawyer, who is based in Lagos, flew into Uyo for the case.
Another lawyer in Uyo confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the judge pronounced the prison sentence against Mr Effiong.
Mr Effiong later posted details of the incident on his Twitter page.
“The Chief Judge of Akwa Akwa Ibom ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court. I said my lord, we were thinking that since the proceeding is public, members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding. My Lord asked me to proceed with cross-examination,” he wrote.
“I will be going to the Uyo Correctional Centre now. I have not done anything. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to say anything before the “conviction”. Two lawyers in court appealed to the Hon. Chief Judge but my Lord insisted that I must be jailed.”
Justice Obot in previous proceedings had ordered court officials to temporarily seize phones from reporters and others in the courtroom, apparently to prevent the proceedings from being recorded secretly.
In Mr. Olumide’s response he said: “Since receiving this news, I have been in touch with the Chairman of the Uyo Branch of NBA who has mobilised his team to look into and address this. This morning, I have also mandated the NBA 1st Vice President to visit Uyo immediately to join the ongoing efforts and ensure the release of Mr. Effiong.
“The NBA is therefore on top of this, and I am confident that Mr. Effiong will regain his freedom shortly.
“While not going into the merits of this particular matter yet, suffice it to say that the NBA is strongly opposed to, and will continue to resist all attempts to intimidate, threaten or harass our members while properly carrying out their professional responsibilities.”
“The NBA will also not condone acts of indiscipline and insubordination against judicial officers from our members no matter the provocation. Ours is a rule-based profession and there is a procedure for airing grievances. The NBA 1st Vice President will also conduct a fact-finding investigation to determine what transpired and recommend next steps.”