A lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi, has called for the release of his colleague, Inibehe Effiong, who was sent to prison, Wednesday morning, by the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot.
It was gathered that Justice Obot ordered Inibehe to be remanded in jail for one month over what she called “contemptuous and insulting behaviour in court.”
Olajengbesi, in a statement on Wednesday, maintained that the sentencing of Inibehe to prison by the judge without trial was illegal, adding that Justice Obot was being a judge in her own case.
“I have read the report that my learned brother, Inibehe, has been sent to the Uyo Correctional Centre on purported ground of contempt in facie curiae arising from the case between Governor Udom Emmanuel and Leo Ekpenyong in which Mr. Effiong is counsel to the defendant. https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.522.0_en.html#goog_1142345713
“What leaves me in shock is the fact that no contempt proceeding whatsoever was held before his conviction and sentencing, and neither was he allowed to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt, as obtainable under summary trials for contempt.
“It is indeed difficult to give an exact definition of what amounts to or what contempt of court is in all cases since the facts and circumstances vary from one case to another. As a result, contempt or what may amount to contempt of court would depend on the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case.
“Following the antecedents of this case, I am aware that the matter was slated for continuation of trial sequel to the court setting aside the earlier judgment given in the case in question, allowing for the defendant to be heard. As Inibehe narrated, the Chief Judge had ordered news reporters from Premium Times to leave the court room and he had prayed the court to let them stay since the proceeding is public; but the court did not burge. He further informed the court of the unease sliding through him owing to the uncustomary presence of policemen in the courtroom. It was at that moment the Chief Judge asked him to step out of the bar and ordered the policemen to take him to the Uyo correctional centre and keep him for one month.
“A good question is whether his expression in any way ridicules the court or interferes with the administration of justice? The answer is to the negative. At this point, I cannot completely overlook the fact that the Chief Judge had earlier threatened to put Inibehe behind bars for accusing her of the likelihood of bias in the ongoing libel suit which came up for trial,” the statement partly read.
Olajengbesi noted that sentencing without trial was not welcome under the Nigerian Criminal Justice System as it emblemed an exercise of arbitrariness and a slap on the hallowed concept of Rule of Law. “To sentence for contempt in the face of the court by the Judge who feels offended will naturally bring about a case of the judge being a ‘judge’ in her own case and for that, the judge ought to be more circumspect in the exercise of her powers.
“Contempt is not meant to be used as a weapon or means of showing strength and power by the judge,” he said.
He added that “It is my opinion that if my learned brother has been accused for contempt, then he ought to be tried for contempt in accordance with due legal procedure before being sentenced. The court is no place for display of sentimentality, and justice should not only be done, but manifestly be seen to be done.
The lawywer submitted that given the circumstances surrounding the case, “The current Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom is no longer competent continue to preside on the matter and the court, not also fit to hold such a very important and delicate office as her clothes of justice has been stained with injustice.”
The PUNCH reports that Inibehe had in a series of tweets on his verified handle on Wednesday, revealed he was in court on a suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel against Leo Ekpenyong for alleged defamation.
He said, “I have just been sent to Uyo prison by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, for one month for defending Leo Ekpenyong in the libel suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel.”
Effiong added that there was “Already a pending application for recusal asking the Hon. Chief Judge, Justice Ekaette Obot, to recuse himself. We filed it since June 23, 2022. The motion is still pending.”
Source: The Punch