Rights lawyer, Effiong sentenced to one month in prison for contempt in Akwa Ibom

· Metro

The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot on Wednesday committed a human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, (Esq) to the state correctional centre for one month over what she described as “confrontational and contemptuous behaviour” in court.

Justice Obot before ordering the conviction warrant of the accused said she had run out of patience with the excesses and unruly behaviours of the embattled lawyer who is the defence counsel to Barr Leo Ekpenyong.

Ekpenyong is standing trial in a libel suit instituted by the governor of the state, Mr Udom Emmanuel and Mr Effiong Dickson Bob in suits Nos HU/279/2019 and HU/273/2019 respectively.

The defence had earlier asked the Chief Judge to recuse from presiding over the matter alleging bias and likelihood of bias.

The matter which came up Wednesday, July 27, 2022, for cross-examination of the last witness, Rev Richard Peters ended abruptly by the order of the Chief Judge who was visibly infuriated by the
perceived confrontational behaviour of the rights lawyer, Effiong.

Effiong while cross-examining the witness, (Rev Peters) observed the presence of two armed policemen inside the courtroom and prayed the Chief Judge to excuse them adding that their presence had already made the atmosphere tensed and uncomfortable for him to proceed.

He said, “my Lord, as a legal practitioner, with total respect I have never seen armed policemen inside the court with Ak47. With total respect my Lord I don’t feel comfortable as a lawyer in this atmosphere having armed policemen sitting behind me.

“I am formally raising observation that the atmosphere of the court is hostile for the proceedings. I’m also raising observations that my Lord should ask them to leave the court, they have no business being here, but if my Lordship rules that it is in line with the tradition of this court, let them stay but I pray the court should excuse them. Even in ceremonial court, armed policemen do not enter inside the court.”

Irked by the observations, the Chief Judge, Justice Obot ordered him to step out of the bar which he obliged, and further ordered him to remove his wig and gown but the lawyer sought the reason for such order even as he insisted that he would not address the judge while being de-robed.

The CJ quipped, “You are sentenced for being confrontational and contemptuous, now remove your wig. You are no longer in a position to address me. You are hereby sentenced to one-month imprisonment to purge yourself of contempt. Take him away.”

However, two lawyers,(a visiting lawyer and the defence counsel’s colleague) in the court also pleaded for leniency on Inibehe’s behalf but the Chief Judge said it was late as she has already passed her
judgement.

Speaking with Newsmen shortly after the judgement on what transpired in the court, the claimant counsel, Samuel Ikpo said, “we have fielded our last witness for the final cross-examination and the defence counsel in his characteristic manner was very hostile with the Chief Judge, abused the Chief Judge, poured vituperation, he has been doing that before, even me as a lawyer cannot tolerate that but the Chief Judge in his magnanimity has been tolerating him until today.

“In law even when the judgement is against you you cannot stand before the Chief Judge and say, you see that matter I am going to appeal. Every time he goes out of court, he will gather the media to
talk nonsense. Let him stay in the correctional centre and purge himself of contempt.”

The matter was earlier meant to be heard on 27 and 29 July.

Meanwhile, shortly after the judgement, Effiong went on Facebook live to report the incident and what transpired between him and the judge.

 

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