NBA Says Inibehe Effiong’s Imprisonment Illegal, To Petition NJC
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has described the imprisonment of popular human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, as unconstitutional.
NBA says it may write a petition against Ekaette Obot, Akwa Ibom state chief judge, over the imprisonment of Inibehe Effiong.
Last Wednesday, Obot sent Effiong to prison after the lawyer reportedly protested against the presence of armed policemen in court.
The human rights lawyer was in court to defend Leo Ekpenyong, a lawyer, in a libel suit filed by Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom.
Many Nigerians, including civil society organizations (CSOs), have called for the immediate release of the human rights lawyer.
Giving an update on the matter, Olumide Akpata, NBA president, in a statement on Wednesday, said efforts to secure the release of Effiong have failed.
Akpata said the judge is unwilling to further entertain the matter.
“Last week, I provided an update on the efforts being made by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) towards securing the release of our colleague, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, who was remanded in custody on the order of the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State on account of alleged contemptuous conduct in Her Lordship’s court,” the NBA president said.
“Unfortunately, attempts to secure Mr. Effiong’s release through sustained engagements at different levels have been unsuccessful with the chief judge indicating that she was unwilling or unable to further entertain the matter.
“In the circumstance, the NBA is left with no choice but to work on an appeal against the decision of Her Lordship, and I have instructed the NBA team to work with Mr. Effiong on an immediate appeal.
“This is not the outcome that we had expected because there is a high chance that Mr. Effiong would serve out his one-month custodial term before the end of the appeal.
“Regardless of the conduct of Mr. Effiong in the courtroom on the date of the proceedings that led to his committal, one thing that has come out from the various accounts that the NBA has so far received is that Hon. Justice Ekaette Obot did not follow due process in the committal proceedings.
“Mr. Effiong was not put in the dock, told what his wrong or contempt was, given a fair hearing, or even an opportunity to recant or purge himself (a courtesy that the bench should, at the minimum, extend to counsel where counsel’s conduct is said to be contemptuous).
“This on its face not only runs afoul of known practice and procedure in such cases but is also unconstitutional. In view of the foregoing and depending on the outcome of our ongoing investigations, the NBA may be forced to take this matter up with the National Judicial Council.”