By Paul Michael,
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has vowed to sue prison officials for allegedly torturing lawyer, Inibehe Effiong.
Effiong, also an activist, is serving a one-month prison sentence for contempt of court after asking the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom, Ekaette Obot, to recuse herself from a case he is handling.
Falana, in a statement on Thursday titled, ‘Brutal Torture Meted out to Inibehe Effiong by Nigerian Correctional Service is Unacceptable’, said the chief judge had refused to provide Effiong with the certified true copies of the judgment, therefore, delaying his appeal process.
“In order to prevent Effiong from appealing against the conviction and sentence imposed on him, the chief judge has refused to furnish him with a certified true copy of her judgment in contravention of Section 36 (7) of the constitution which prescribes that every convict is entitled to a copy of the judgment of the court that tried and convicted him,” Falana stated.
He said the warrant signed by the judge directed that Effiong be held in Ikot Ekpene Correctional Centre, Akwa Ibom throughout the duration of his prison term but the order of the court was secretly varied on Thursday as Effiong was forcefully transferred to Uyo Correctional Centre in handcuffs even though there was no violence on his part.
“At the Uyo Correctional Centre, Effiong was forced to sit on the bare floor while his head was shaved together with his beard. He was thereafter subjected to more horrendous humiliation and paraded before all prison inmates,” he added.
Falana argued that the brutal torture meted out to Effiong by the prison officials in Akwa Ibom State constitutes a violent violation of his fundamental right to dignity guaranteed by Section 34 of the constitution and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
According to the learned silk, it is painful to note that the unprovoked violence unleashed on Effiong is a sad reminder of the case of Minere Amakiri, then a reporter with Nigerian Observer, the old Bendel State-owned newspaper whose head was shaved with a broken bottle in 1973 on the orders of Alfred Diette-Spiff, the then military governor of the state.
“Apart from challenging the egregious infringement of the fundamental right of Inibehe to the dignity of his person and fair hearing we shall press for the prosecution of the officials who inflicted torture on him contrary to the provision of section 2 of the Anti Torture Act of 2017. The penalty for the offence of inflicting torture on any person in Nigeria is 25 years imprisonment without any option of fine,” the activist said.
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service has denied any wrongdoing, saying shaving Effiong’s hair and beard was a security measure and routine practice.
A statement by the Public Relations Officer of the Command, Richard Metong, on Friday said Effiong is safe and unhurt, noting that the transfer was part of following the Covid-19 protocol, where all inmates upon conviction were isolated for a period of 14 days at the Uyo Custodial Center.
Metong said the Command is committed to upholding human rights and dignity of all inmates.
The statement reads, “The attention of the Controller of Corrections, Nigerian Correctional Service, Akwa Ibom State Command has been drawn to the fake report being circulated on social media that Barr Inibehe Effiong was handcuffed, assaulted and bundled into a van by officers of the Command in a bid to secretly transfer him from Ikot Ekpene Custodial Centre to Uyo Custodial Centre.
“The Command is constrained to state that this news is fake, baseless, and an attempt by mischief makers to drag the corporate image of the Service to the mud. The general public is hereby advised to ignore, discard and disregard the fake news as this is a product of rumour mongers and attention seekers.
“For the purpose of clarity, Barr Inibehe Effiong is safe, secured, unhurt, and not tortured or humiliated. His dignity and human rights are not violated in any way.
“The human rights lawyer was committed to one-month imprisonment in Uyo Custodial Centre by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State for contempt.
“As part of the efforts by the Service to prioritize the health and welfare of the inmates in custody and in adherence to the Covid 19 protocol, all inmates, upon remand or conviction, are isolated for a period of fourteen (14) days at the Isolation Block in Ikot Ekpene Custodial Centre before they are transferred to any custodial centre in the state to which they are sentenced.
“Barr Inibehe Effiong, upon completion of his 14 days isolation period in Ikot Ekpene, was transferred to Uyo Custodial Centre on Wednesday 10th August 2022 where he is to serve the remaining part of his term as indicated in his warrant.
“Prior to the transfer, he was duly informed and was assisted by the officers of the service who escorted him to the waiting van in which he was peacefully conveyed to Uyo Custodial Centre. On arrival at Uyo, he was duly admitted into the facility and was also informed of the need to cut his hair and beards as a security measure as well as a routine practice in the facility which he obliged and willingly allowed the barber to use a clipper and not a blunt instrument as speculated on the social media.
“The Controller of Corrections hereby wishes to express the unflinching commitment of the Command to maintain and uphold the human right, dignity and well-being of the inmates, officers, and men of the service in Akwa Ibom State and also call on the stakeholders, civil society and the general public to collaborate with the Service to fully deliver on her mandates of safe, secure and humane custody as well as providing security to the society.”
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