The conviction of a human right lawyer by Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, has been described as unfair and misguided by the CDHR. The 34-year old Akwa Ibom State born lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong, has been remanded in Uyo Correctional Centre in an attempt to lawfully defend a client.
The position of CDHR was made known through a statement signed by Comrade Idris Afees Olayinka,
National Publicity Secretary, and made available to the National Association of Online Security Reporters, NAOSRE.
According to the statement, CDHR stated that Inibehe Effiong disclosed on his Facebook page, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 that he had been sentenced to one month imprisonment at Uyo correctional facility by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot for defending Leo Ekpenyong in the libel suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
CDHR explained that the Chief Judge of Akwa Akwa Ibom ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court and he reacted by saying “my lord, we were thinking that since the proceeding is public, that members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding.” The judge instead of granting the reporter permission, asked the lawyer to proceed with his cross examination.
According to Barrister Inibehe Effiong, he obeyed and informed the court that he was not feeling comfortable and safe having two armed mobile policemen seated inside the courtroom, that it was strange and that felt unsafe. He then pleaded with the Judge to excuse the armed policemen from the courtroom.
The Hon. Chief Judge ordered Barrister Inibehe Effiong to step out of the Bar and ordered the policemen to take him to Uyo prison, that he has been jailed for one month. CDHR Learnt that two lawyers in court appealed to the Hon. Chief Judge on behalf of Barrister Inibehe Effiong but insisted he must be jailed
Meanwhile, there was a pending motion for the Judge to disqualify and recuse himself from the case on grounds of bias or likelihood of bias. CDHR learnt.
CDHR, however, decries the action of the Judge as not only unfair but
shamefully embarrassing to Nigeria’s system of Administration of Justice. The action of the Judge is worse than the dictatorship of Nigeria’s foregone military era. The situation was a calm denial of the applications made by the Counsel stating her reasoning for arriving at her decision or better still acceding to the reliefs sought and challenging the Counsel to conduct his case before another Judge. Barrister Inibehe Effiong was denied his Fundamental human right of fair hearing.
Inline with the above CDHR calls on Justice Ekaette Obot to honourably resign her position as a judge, apologize to the Nigeria Bar Association and the Nigerian People as a whole, for her inexcusable display of indiscretion, exhibition of lack of self restraint, tact, finesse and demonstration of impatience, motivated obviously by her desire to play to the gallery and please the Governor of the State who is the Claimant in the suit.
CDHR also calls on the Nigeria Judicial Council to wade in to this case and free the innocent lawyer as soon as possible.