The Nigerian Bar Association on Wednesday noted that it had been unable to secure the release of human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, due to “the Chief Judge indicating that she was unwilling or unable to further entertain the matter.”
The national president of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, made this known via his official twitter handle on Wednesday.
The PUNCH had reported that the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, ordered Inibehe to be remanded in jail for one month over what she called “contemptuous and insulting behaviour in court.”
The judge also noted that the lawyer would use the correctional facility to purge himself of insolence and dishonourable acts that tended to bring the court to disrepute.
The court which sat in the case of libel by Governor Udom Emmanuel against one Leo Ekpenyong, was on its last day for the prosecution to end its case.
Following his remands, there have been calls for his release by the NBA, civil society organisations, and media, among others.
Reacting to the efforts made by the NBA to secure the release of Inibehe, Akpata said, “ Last week, I provided an update on the efforts being made by the 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 court.
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 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 the Court 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 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”.