Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) on Friday, asked the National Judicial Council and the Nigeria Bar Association to begin a probe of Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, for jailing popular lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, for one-month following alleged contempt of court whilst a court hearing was ongoing.
HURIWA said the action and decision of the Chief Judge to send to prison the lawyer for only just making a simple and straightforward observation concerning the presence of armed policemen inside her court during a court session amounts to dictatorship of the judicial bench and is an abuse of power which offends section 15(5) of the Constitution that mandates the Federation to eradicate corruption and abuse of power. HURIWA is hereby calling on the Akwa Ibom CJ to reverse herself and order the immediate freedom for the illegally incarcerated human rights campaigner. The Rights activist observed that were it not that the lawyer is a known opponent of the Akwa Ibom State governor and governors in Nigeria seeing themselves as emperors who from time to time releases logistics to the other two arms of government as against the intendment of the principle of separation of powers in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution, the Akwa Ibom Chief Judge would have overlooked the side talk of the civil Rights lawyer she has just thrown into jail unjustly.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said the NJC and the NBA must establish whether the judge was working in collusion with the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, because the jailed lawyer was in court to defend a client in a case against the governor.
Recall that on Wednesday, the judge ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court and Effiong protested that since the proceeding was public the members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding.
“I informed the court that I was not feeling comfortable and safe having two armed mobile policemen seated inside the courtroom, that it was strange and that I felt unsafe. I applied for the judge to excuse the armed policemen from the courtroom.
“The Hon. Chief Judge then ordered me to step out of the Bar, that she was sending me to prison. She then ordered the policemen to take me to Uyo prison. And that I should be in jail for one month,” the lawyer posted on social media just before he was sent to prison.
Lawyer Effiong was in court to defend his client, Leo Ekpenyong, against a defamation suit initiated by the governor.
Reacting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The action of the Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, is perplexing. That a judge sentenced a lawyer without contempt proceeding is tyrannical and an abuse of judicial power.
“The Nigerian Criminal Justice system frowns upon sentencing without trial because it is a slap on the Rule of Law.
“HURIWA condemns the arbitrary decision as well as the oppressive and tyrannical order of the CJ in Akwa Ibom and asks the NBA to intervene and get the lawyer released immediately.
“We also appealing to the NJC to investigate if the CJ is working in collusion with the state governor to punish the outspoken lawyer who wages campaign against corruption in Akwa Ibom State in recent times.
“The NJC must get to the root of the matter at a time when governors bankroll judges and even give them gifts of expensive cars and mansions as a form of cashbacking the budgetary appropriations for the judicial arm of government which for now lacks independence. The order of the Akwa Ibom CJ must not be tolerated hence powerdrunk judges would start hunting down lawyers who do not swing to the side of their paymasters in government. The judiciary is the hope of the common man. This hope must not be thwarted by corrupt and sentimental persons.”
National Coordinator – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)
July 29, 2022