— CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS DEMAND IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Pressure has continued to mount on the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom state, Justice Ekaette Obot over her controversial imprisonment of a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong. Mr Effiong was committed to prison on 27 July by Justice Obot, for alleged contempt of court.
On Tuesday, a coalition of civil society groups demanded the immediate release of Effiong, from what they called “unlawful custody” warning that they will not “sit-by and watch a Chief Judge use her high judicial stool for vendetta thereby desecrating the very principles she is commissioned to protect and preserve at all costs.” The group further alleged that Mr. Effiong was denied a fair hearing and warned that they will embark on a nationwide protest if he is not immediately released.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Nigeria Bar Association has said it is making efforts to effect Mr. Effiong’s release. This was disclosed by the NBA President, Mr. Akpata who added that he was concerned about Mr. Effiong’s detention in prison.
According to him: “Since receiving the news, I have been in touch with the Chairman of the Uyo Branch of NBA who has mobilized his team to look into and address this development”.
Last Friday activists from different groups staged a protest in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, during which they demanded the release of the human rights lawyer. The protesting groups included the Citizen Liberation Movement, the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the National Association of University Students, and the Youths Representative from Itu Local Government Area of the state.
See the press release in full:
INIBEHE EFFIONG’S ILLEGAL REMAND, A CALCULATED CONSPIRACY AIMED AT DESTROYING THE JUDICIARY
We have read with utter disgust the unlawful imprisonment of human rights lawyer, Barrister Inibehe Effiong by a power-drunk judge, Justice Ekaette Fabian Obot, Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State High Court, over purported claims of “contempt.”
Mr. Effiong, who was representing his client Leo Ekpenyong in the defamation case with suit numbers HU/279/2019 and HU/273/2019, instituted by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and Senator Bob Effiong, was terribly humiliated by Justice Ekaette Obot in what will go down in history as a dark day in Nigerian democracy.
The deluge of public backlashes generated by the ill-calculated attempt to shut down Effiong Esq. has led to the spinning of misleading narratives by the claimants through their witnesses in the cases – one Ndon Assian and Rev Richard Peters, whose places in the hall of infamy have been permanently reserved. No amount of manipulation by these unscrupulous individuals can erase the glaring truth that is already known to the general public.
If such cruel intimidations are not resisted and condemned, no lawyer will be able to speak up in the future when the court is playing tricks after striking dark deals with the petty bourgeoisie that populate our political class. This unfortunate incident has only succeeded in further deepening the trust deficit of the common man with the courts and can only lead to one path – self-help. This, in turn, will inevitably result in anarchy if there is no lawful resistance to arrest the situation.
Is it not disturbing that only the two cases are always on the cause list of the court each day they are listed? Why has the court refused to honor the applications for the record of proceedings and Certified True Copies of the rulings so far? When did High Court 1 in Uyo become so hostile that rifle-wielding policemen are now ushered into the courtroom while in session? Was that not enough reason to adjourn for a less hostile environment? And why is it that Justice Ekaette Obot, who should know better about the principles of fair hearing, did not give Inibehe Effiong Esq. the opportunity to defend himself against the concocted allegations leveled against him? Or, was this another way of continuing her reported tradition of disrobing lawyers in open court?
Consequently, we demand that Justice Ekaette Obot should immediately set aside her anti-democratic ruling of Wednesday, July 27, 2022, by releasing Inibehe Effiong Esq. from unlawful custody. We further insist, in line with Inibehe’s demand, that Ekaette Obot recused herself from the case under reference. Her insistence on presiding over a case from which she has been told to step aside is not only shameful but further lends credence to Inibehe Effiong’s allegations of bias.
We contend that Inibehe Effiong’s constitutional right to a fair hearing has been violated by a judge who has literally declared him her enemy. We believe that the judiciary is a crucial arm of government, we shall therefore not tolerate a judge who sees her sacred responsibility as an opportunity to manipulate and urinate on the very principles she was supposed to protect at all costs.
Flowing from the above, therefore, we state emphatically that Justice Ekaette Obot and her accomplices at the Akwa Ibom State Government have a 3-day ultimatum to unconditionally release Inibehe Effiong from illegal custody. If this demand is not met within this stipulated deadline, we shall not hesitate to mobilize all people of conscience nationwide to stage mass demonstrations in major Nigerian cities to draw the attention of the international community to this cruel strangulation of the rule of law championed by Justice Ekaette Obot, who ironically happens to be the Chief Judge of a State!
We call on Nigerians from all walks of life to be on standby and be ready to act as we prepare to rescue our democracy from the terrible jaws of these anti-democratic forces.
Enough is enough!!!
1. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
3. We The People
4. Rivers State Civil Society Organisations
5. Foundation For Leadership And Citizens Development
6. CAMP Forum
7. Nigerian Observatory For Human Rights
8. Citizens Solutions Network
10. Take It Back Movement
11. Center for Community Empowerment in Conflict & Peace-building
12. Viva Talk Platform
13. International Human Rights Protection Initiative
14. United Action For Democracy
15. Civil Liberties Organizations
16. Civil Right Council
17. Revolutionary Socialist Movement (RSM)
18. Citizen Liberation Movement.
19. Coalition Of Non partisan NGOs in Akwa ibom
20. Edo Coalition
21. Itu Youths Representative
22. Socialist Workers And Youth League
23. Coalition For Revolution