For asking a court not to allow gun wielding policemen to stay inside the courtroom, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom state, Justice Ekaette Obot on Tuesday morning sentenced human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong to one month imprisonment for contempt of court.
Effiong was in the Chief Judge’s court to defend a fellow lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong in a case of alleged defamation filed by Akwa Ibom state Governor, Emmanuel Udom.
In a series of social media updates by Mr. Effiong, he narrated his ordeal before the Chief Judge sent him to prison. Justice Obot had initially sent a journalist with Premium Times out of the court but Effiong pleaded with the court to allow him observe proceedings in the interest of the public.
However, asking the court to send out two policemen carrying AK47 rifles inside the courtroom because he does not feel safe was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Justice Obot ordered Effiong out of the bar, ordered him to remove his wig and robe, and sentenced him to one month imprisonment for contempt.
According to Mr. Effiong, “the Chief Judge ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court and he told the court that he was thinking that since the proceeding is public, that members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding but the judge asked him to proceed with cross examination and he obeyed.
He noted that afterwards, he also informed the court that he was not feeling comfortable and safe having two armed mobile policemen seated inside the courtroom, that it was strange and that he felt unsafe. And he applied for the judge to excuse the armed policemen from the courtroom.
He stated that upon the said application, the Hon. Chief Judge then ordered him to step out of the Bar, that she was sending him to prison and then ordered the policemen to take him to Uyo prison where he would spend one month.
“I will be going to the Uyo Correctional Centre now. I have not done anything. I wasn’t even given the 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. Two lawyers in court appealed to the Hon. Chief Judge but my Lord insisted that I must be jailed”, Inibehe stated.
In a live video, he narrated: “As usual the atmosphere was very very hostile, I came in this morning and immediately my Lord the Chief Judge came in she ordered some armed policemen with AK 47 to come inside the courtroom and then the armed policemen came in with AK 47 two of them including the orderly and the proceeding started.
I reminded the court that we have a motion for recusal. Asking the chief judge to recuse himself from the matter on grounds of likelihood of bias and then the court said we should go ahead with the trial and leave the motion. And trial started and then while I was cross examining the witness to the Governor, the judge ordered the journalist from Premium Times to leave the court and I said “my Lord it is an open court and it is expected that anyone that wants to observe proceedings should be allowed” and I also raised that I don’t feel comfortable having armed policemen inside the court that I have never seen two armed police men with AK 47 inside the court that it makes me feel threatened and I applied officially that my Lord should ask them to step out of the court. And my Lord ordered me to step out of the bar, ordered me to de-robe and said she was committing me to prison for one month for raising an observation that it is not proper for armed police men to be in the court room.
My Lord has asked that a conviction warrant be brought, I an waiting for the conviction warrant, so I’m going to Uyo prison from here . I think it is also an opportunity to see people that are there. So, we see how this goes. I just want everyone to see what has been happening. This thing has been very hostile a lot of things has happened, every time we come to court it is always one issue or the other. I haven’t done anything, I haven’t disrespected dthe court I haven’t said anything that I’d personal. I just made an application that it is not proper to have armed police men in court and the next thing she said I am rude that why should I be saying that. I should step out of the Bar and that I am going to prison
This is a case file by the governor Udom Emmanuel against Leo Ekpenyong a lawyer over alleged defamation and since I got into this matter it was as if I shouldn’t have defended this man.
We have a pending application for recusal asking the Chief Judge to recuse himself from the matter. That application has not been taken. That application is still pending and this is exactly the reason we brought that application because of what has been happening and then I am being sent to prison for doing what exactly?
So, I am just waiting for the policemen to bring the warrant the judge has ordered them not to allow me to step out of the court that I am going to be taken to prison from here. So, I am waiting for them to come so in case you are not likely going to hear from me after now. We would be seeing what happens from there.
I have never seen this kind of situation before. I mean how do you commit a lawyer to prison for making a formal application? For making an observation that it is not proper for armed police men to be inside the court. Why should armed police men be in court?
A lot has happened in this case and that is why we filed the application for the Honourable chief judge to recuse himself. So this is just the price that we have to pay for following our conviction.