The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, has said the Association may consider reporting the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot to the National Judicial Council, over the committal of human rights activist and lawyer, Inibehe Effiong to prison for alleged contempt.

In a tweet shared by NBA President lamented to efforts to secure the release of Effiong have been unsuccessful as a result of the insistence of the CJ to ensure he serves the term.
He also said due to the annual vacation of the Court of Appeal, it has become possible to appeal for a nullification of the decision.

He tweeted on his verified twitter handle @OlumideAkpata:

“..attempts to secure Mr. Effiong’s release through sustained engagements at different levels have been unsuccessful with the Chief Judge indicating that she was unwilling or unable to further entertain the matter.

In the circumstance, the NBA is left with no choice but to work on an appeal against the decision of Her Lordship, and I have instructed the NBA team to work with Mr. Effiong on an immediate appeal.
This is not the outcome that we had expected because there is a high chance that Mr. Effiong would serve out his one-month custodial term before the end of the appeal.” He said.

The NBA further berated the process by which Effiong was committed for contempt describing it as running “afoul of known practice and procedure in such cases”, and suggested that the NBA may take up the matter with the National Judicial Council depending on the outcome of ongoing investigations.

He said: “Regardless of the conduct of Mr. Effiong in the courtroom on the date of the proceedings that led to his committal, one thing that has come out from the various accounts that the NBA has so far received is that the Court did not follow due process in the committal proceedings.”

Akpata continued, “Mr. Effiong was not put in the dock, told what his wrong or contempt was, given fair hearing or even an opportunity to recant or purge himself (a courtesy that the Bench should, at the minimum, extend to counsel where counsel’s conduct is said to be contemptuous).

This on its face not only runs afoul of known practice and procedure in such cases but is also unconstitutional. In view of the foregoing and depending on the outcome of our ongoing investigations, the NBA may be forced to take this matter up with the National Judicial Council.”

Justice Obot last Wednesday sentenced the activist-lawyer to one-month imprisonment for alleged contemptuous behaviour.

The judge made the order during proceedings in the case of alleged libel instituted by Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel against a lawyer, Mr. Leo Ekpenyong, who is Effiong’s client.

But Effiong claimed he was an innocent victim of unjustified exercise of power, and that the judge punished him after he applied that two armed mobile policemen be asked to exit the courtroom.

He said he had already asked the Chief Judge to recuse herself from handling the case, on the ground of alleged bias.

Akpata, last Thursday, ordered a probe of the circumstances surrounding the sentencing.