Judge Jails Lawyer for Intervening in Defence of a Journalist

Mr. Inibehe Effiong

On July 26, 2022, Justice Ekaette Obot, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, sentenced Mr. Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, to one month in prison for defending Mr. Savior Imukudo, a Premium Times reporter whom the judge also ordered to be detained

Justice Obot gave the sentence sequel to Inibehe’s intervention in the reporter’s defence when he said it was fitting for members of the public to witness the proceeding. Sentencing the lawyer, an angered Justice Obot said the lawyer would use the correctional facility to purge himself of actions that could bring the court into disrepute.

The judge is reported to have threatened On July 2, to jail Effiong for alleging prejudice and likelihood of bias in the handling of a libel case involving Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, and Effiong’s client, Mr. Leo Ekpeyong which the judge was handling. She warned the lawyer to behave himself or risk being sent to prison.

Justice Obot had given judgment in the matter and pronounced Leo guilty of libel, a judgment in favour of Governor Emmanuel.

Following the ruling however, the lawyer had filed a motion for the judgment to be set aside, insisting that his client was not given a fair hearing, a prayer the court granted. The lawyer thereafter said his client no longer had confidence in the judge, citing prejudice and the likelihood of bias as his reasons. The lawyer’s claim infuriated the judge.

After he was sent to prison, Inibehe tweeted his encounter leading to the jail sentence as follows:

“The chief judge of Akwa Ibom ordered a Premium times reporter to leave the court. I said ‘my lord, we were thinking that since the proceeding is public, it is fitting that members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding.

“I will be going to the Uyo Correctional Centre now. I have done nothing wrong. I was also not given to say anything before the conviction. Two lawyers in court appealed to the hon. chief judge, but my lord insisted I must be jailed.

“Unknown to me, my lord was writing a committal order to send me to Uyo prison. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to say anything. My lord just ordered me to remove my wig and gown, that I was going to prison.

“Meanwhile, we have a pending motion for my lord to disqualify and recuse himself from the case on grounds of bias or likelihood of bias. Justice will vindicate the just.”

Inibehe regained his freedom on August 26, after spending one month in jail.