Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, has threatened to begin a legal action against the Chief Justice of Akwa-Ibom state, Justice Ekaette Obot, over her unwillingness to facilitate the release of a Lagos based lawyer and Human Right activist, Inibehe Effiong from Correctional facility.
WHAT is the NBA’s grievance with the CJ?
Justice Ekaette Obot had on July 27, ordered that Inibehe Effiong be remanded in jail for one month over his conduct which the judge described as “contemptuous and insulting behaviour in court”.
Following Inibehe’s remand, there was uproar and dissent by members of the public, with many including the NBA, Civil Society Organisations and the media calling for his release.
While updating the pubic on efforts being made by the NBA to secure Inibehe’s release, President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata alleged that the judge is frustrating the efforts. According to him, “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.
Mr. Akpata also accused Justice Obot of not following due process in the Committal proceedings that led to the sentencing of Inibehe.
“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)” Akapata said.
What do the NBA plan to do?
The NBA president, on his verified Social Media handle, stated that the BAR is left with no choice but to work on an appeal against the decision of Honourabe Justice Obot, adding that he has instructed the NBA team to work with Mr. Effiong on an immediate appeal.
Akpata described the matter as unconstitutional which is in conflict with known practice and procedure, threatening to take the matter up with the National Judicial Council.
Has there been a Similar Case before?
Sometime in the 1990s, Justice Ligali Ayorinde, the then Acting Chief Judge of Lagos State, sentenced renowned lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Gani Fawehimi to jail for 12 months for contempt similar to what Inibehe Effiong is being remanded for.
Gani Fawehimi had asked that Justice Ayorinde should recuse himself from the defamation case against him by Colonel Haliru Akilu and Lieutenant-Colonel A.K Togun and transfer the case to another judge. However, Gani Fawehimi’s imprisonment was overturned by the court of appeal.