A human rights lawyer, Mr Inibehe Effiong, was on Wednesday in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, sent to prison by the State Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, for defending a journalist covering the proceedings of the court.
Obot ordered the arrest of Saviour Imukudo, a reporter with the Premium Times, who was in the court to cover proceedings on the defamation case between the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, and a lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong.
The judge had asked the reporter to identify himself in the courtroom when the proceedings started, after which he ordered him to leave the courtroom.
As the reporter was walking out of the courtroom, the judge ordered a police officer to search him and seize his phone, was still being “detained” in the court at the time of this report.
The decision of Obot to jail the lawyer for alleged contempt of court has, however, sparked controversy and condemnation on the social media.
In a series of tweets via his Twitter handle, Effiong said Justice Obot sent him to Uyo prison for one month for defending Leo Ekpenyong in a libel suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Appeals by the two lawyers in the court to the Chief Judge were unsuccessful as he insisted that the Lagos-based lawyer must be jailed.
Nigerians react: “There are also clearly laid down procedures for contempt of court which the CJ of Akwa Ibom didn’t follow at all. She just sent @iniheffiong1 to prison in anger without following due process. This is a clear case of Abuse of power.”
— Comrade Deji Adeyanju (@adeyanjudeji) July 27, 2022
“Akwa Ibom Governor Emmanuel Udom must stop the intimidation of citizens through the judiciary. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Activist Lawyer Inibehe Effiong. #FreeInibehe #WeCantContinueLikeThis”— TELLA Temitayo (@tellatemitayo) July 27, 2022.
“This is clearly unacceptable. No lawyer should be persecuted, jailed or punished for courageously defending his client regardless of the position of who is involved. Akwa Ibom CJ has crossed the sacred lines and has shown partisanship. Inibehe Effiong must be released NOW!”
— FESTUS OGUN (@mrfestusogun) July 27, 2022
“Inibehe Effiong has today been convicted by a judge in Akwa Ibom because he felt unsafe in court. There is something about Nigerians and the tendency to misbehave when in a position of authority.What makes this more disgraceful is that it was done by a judge. It is over💔”
— NK£M #PeterObi2023 (@Nkemchor_) July 27, 202
“A lawyer was immediately sent to prison in Akwa Ibom with no trial because he complained about the presence of too many armed men in court while Bandits are pardoned, corrupt politicians are celebrated, gunmen are protected & thieves want to become president of our nation. Shame!”
— Chlorpheniramine #EndSARS 🇳🇬 (@VictorIsrael_) July 27, 2022
“The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State High Court has just sent my colleague @InibeheEffiong to 1month imprisonment for making an application in court for the CJ to recuse herself from hearing the case the Governor of Akwa Ibom filed against his client. This is impunity taken too far.”
— Mr. Okhai (@Head_of_Kings) July 27, 2022
“Enough of the impunity and Judicial rascality! The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State must be called to order immediately. I have no doubt in my mind that the reason @InibeheEffiong was cited for Comtempt today is his GUTS! @Inibehe ESQ. MUST BE RELEASED TODAY.”
— Maazi Eva (@asuzu_ifeanyi) July 27, 2022
“Why would Justice Ekaette the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State order Human Rights Lawyer Inibehe Effiong to be jailed of a month for raising an observation that armed policemen with AK-47 shouldn’t be inside the courtroom?”
— LeaksAgency.com💎 (@leaks_agency) July 27, 2022
“A human right lawyer Inibehe Effiong has been sentence to prison by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom for simply defending his client. This is absolute nonsense and this impunity must stop! We demand his immediate & unconditional release.#FreeInibeheEffiong #WeCantContinueLikeThis,”
— Towolawi Jamiu #EndSarsNow (@jharmo) July 27, 2022
“Why would Justice Ekaette Obot, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State order Human Rights Lawyer Inibehe Effiong to be jailed of a month for raising an observation that armed policemen with AK-47 shouldn’t be inside the courtroom?@OlumideAkpata @NigBarAssoc”
— Ayemojubar (@ayemojubar) July 27, 2022