A’ Ibom Human Right group moots conciliatory approach to free jailed lawyer

Isaac Job

The Akwa Ibom Human Rights Community (AKHRC), has called for a conciliatory approach over Barr. Inibehe Effiong (Esq), jailed for one month by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Justice Ekaette Obot.

The imprisonment of Inibehe Effiong by Akwa Ibom state Chief Judge Justice Obot has generated controversy and counter-arguments by lawyers on the appropriateness of the sentence with regards to what transpired in court on the fateful day.

However, the human rights group has advocated for restraint on the matter, saying the case was a sensitive one that needs to be approached with caution so as not to lay a bad precedent.

In a statement signed by the National Coordinator of AKHRC, Clifford Thomas, Esq., the group noted that the action of the Chief Judge could threaten the advocacy duty of lawyers.

“We call on all who intend to intervene in this matter, to exercise restraint. This matter is very sensitive, and the best approach we suggest now would be a conciliatory approach.

“There would appear to be rights on all sides, but caution is necessary. Sadly, we feel strongly that advocacy by Lawyers in courts in Akwa Ibom State would be greatly impacted.

“Lawyers may no longer feel very free to do their advocacy freely. A precedent has been set, and human rights advocates may end up becoming victims of the process. May God help the legal profession,” he stated.

Meanwhile, members of the Akwa Ibom Civic Space, made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Organized Labour, and Students’ Communities have frowned at the imprisonment of Barr. Inibehe Effiong (Esq).

They described the procedure adopted by the Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot in the matter as “vexatious and obnoxious”, saying it runs against the practice of judicial precedents on the matter.

In a joint press statement signed by Harry Udoh, Chairman, Akwa Ibom CSOs Forum; Comrade Iboro Ibara, Curator, Akwa Ibom Roundtable; and Mr Peace Edem, Akwa Ibom Youth Advocacy Cluster, the group said the action portrayed the intolerance nature of those in positions of authority.

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They called for the intervention of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the human rights community and the public saying if the situation when unchecked, the powers of the court may be used for personal glory.

“The Civic Space, having consulted with sound legal minds, wishes to state with due respect to His Lordship, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State that the procedure adopted in committing the learned counsel to jail for contempt is vexatious and obnoxious to all tenets of justice and liberty.

“This development is indeed a sad feedback on the worsening national scenario of intolerance of State actors to dissenting opinions of citizens. That the Chief Curator in the hallowed temple of justice would for whatsoever reason, fail to keep the arms of justice on equal balance for all citizens, is most unacceptable in a democratic society.

“Our people may become prisoners wherever they may be, by the mere word or touch of an agent of State, if our jurisprudence becomes such where the powers of the court are deployed for personal glory,” they stated.

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