By Henry Uche
Worried like every other Nigerian over the precarious state of the Nation, the Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has condemned in strong terms what it tagged “Judicial Rascality” besetting the country in recent time.
The Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, made this known in a statement signed by him, following Justice Ekaette Obot’s order to jail a Human Rights Lawyer- Inibehe Effiong in Uyo Correctional Centre for what she (Justice Obot) termed “insolence and dishonourable acts” by the young lawyer.
Justice Obot of Akwa Ibom State High Court who gave the Order said barrister Effiong need to use the correctional facility (for one month) in other to purge himself of insolence and dishonourable acts (contempt) that tend to bring the court to disrepute.
It was gathered that Effiong was accused for incessantly contemptuous and insulting behaviour in court.
This happened while a case of libel filed by the State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, against one Leo Ekpenyong was heard again and was supposed to be the last day for the prosecution of the case.
Justice Obot said she has repeatedly warned Effiong, who had constantly accused her of being biased and as such should recuse herself from handling the case.
But, in his submission outside the court, Effiong said: “The Chief Judge of Akwa Akwa Ibom ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court. “I said my lord, we were thinking that since the proceeding is public, that members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding. My Lord asked me to proceed with cross examination.”
“I obeyed. I informed the court that I was not feeling comfortable and safe, having two armed mobile policemen seated inside the courtroom; that it was strange and that I felt unsafe. I applied for the judge to excuse the armed policemen from the courtroom.
“But the Chief Judge ordered me to step out of the Bar, that she was sending me to prison. She then ordered the policemen to take me to Uyo prison. And that I should be in jail for one month. I am waiting inside the courtroom for them to bring the conviction warrant. I will be going to the Uyo Correctional Centre now. I have not done anything.”
Effiong maintained that he wasn’t even given the opportunity to say anything before the “conviction” adding that two lawyers in court appealed to the Hon. Chief Judge, but the judge insisted that he be jailed.
Suraju with other Rights Activists and Advocates of good governance & Justice has affirmed that Effiong’s committal to prison without trial is illegal and a flagrant abuse of judicial authority, thus, he should be released pronto.
“The Judiciary must purge itself of every forms of rascality and restore moral sanity among themselves. They can’t abuse that hope and trust the common man has on them as the last bus top for justice and deliverance from any form of oppression, suppression or repression.
“In a case where the Governor is a party, the Chief Judge is expected to exercise utmost restraint to avoid partially or the presumption of same. Accusation of partiality and demand for recusal by Barrister Inibehe is a serious issue deserving of priority attention from any judge,” he added.