How judge jailed human rights lawyer for defending client

Inibehe Effiong,

By Nehru Odeh

The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Ekaette Obot, on Wednesday sent a vibrant human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, to prison for one month for defending his client Leo Ekpeyong in a libel suit filed by Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel.

Effiong who is handling a case for his client before Justice Obot’s court in Uyo disclosed this in a message he posted on his WhatsApp status around 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday.

“I have been sent to Uyo prison by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, for one month for defending Leo Ekpenyong in a libel suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel,” Effiong said in the WhatsApp message.

Effiong later posted details of the incident on his Twitter page.

“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,” he wrote.

“I will be going to the Uyo Correctional Centre now. I have not done anything. I wasn’t even opportunity to say anything before the “conviction”. Two lawyers in court appealed to the Hon. Chief Judge but my Lord insisted that I must be jailed.”

The lawyer, who is based in Lagos, flew into Uyo for the case. Another lawyer in Uyo confirmed that the judge pronounced the prison sentence against Effiong.

Justice Obot in previous proceedings had ordered court officials to temporarily seize phones from reporters and others in the courtroom, apparently to prevent the proceedings from being recorded secret. She had also threatened to send Effiong to prison.