The President of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA, Olumide Akpata, has said that various attempts employed by the association towards the release of a popular lawyer, Inihebe Effiong, have been unsuccessful.
On July 27, Effiong raised an alarm on social media after an Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, sent him to jail for one month following his alleged contemptuous conduct while in court. He alleged that he was sentenced to one month in prison after he asked the Chief Judge to remove the armed policemen in the courtroom. He shared photos of himself in the prison van after he was escorted out of the court premises. Read here.
In an update given this morning on social media, Akpata said efforts to get the matter resolved and get Effiong released from prison have been unsuccessful. According to him, the Chief Judge indicates that she is ”unwilling or unable to further entertain the matter.’
Akpata says findings by the NBA show the court did not follow due process in the committal proceedings. He said Effiong was not given a ‘fair hearing in court and an opportunity to recant or purge himself.’ He added that the NBA will now explore the option of appealing the decision of the judge.
Read his statement below…
”Last week, I provided an update on the efforts being made by the Nigerian Bar Association (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 Her Lordship’s 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 that 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 Hon. Justice Ekaette Obot 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.”