Olumide Apata, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) says the association might be forced to take up the matter with the National Judicial Council (NJC) over the refusal of Akom State Chief Judge to grant the release of Inibehe Effiong.
The human rights lawyer was sentenced to one-month imprisonment last week by the chief judge over alleged contemptuous conduct in court.
Mr Effiong had raised an alarm of no wrongdoing after he was jailed by the judge. He said he only raised issues of security and safety when the judge ordered a reporter of Premium Times to vacate the court but allowed heavily armed police policemen who were inside the court to stay.
This according to the lawyer, is not in line with the principle and ethics of court proceedings.
Giving an update on the matter, the NBA president said: “Last week, I provided an update on the efforts being made by the @NigBarAssoc towards securing the release of our colleague, Mr. Inibehe Effiong, who was remanded in custody on the order of the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State on account of alleged contemptuous conduct in court.
“Unfortunately, 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.
“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.
“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,” he said.
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