NLC Seeks Immediate Release of Inibehe Effiong

* Wants presiding judge to recuse himself

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has demanded the freeing of citizen Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer and activist, currently serving one-month prison sentence for contempt of court in in the Akwa Ibom State.

Chief Justice of Akwa Ibom state Justice Ekaette Obot had sentenced Effiong to one-month imprisonment in a defamatory case involving the state governor, Emmanuel Udom.
However, in a statement signed by NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, the Congress faulted how he had been treated since the commencement of the defamatory case against his client, saying that it appeared to have violated the morality of the natural instinct to protect the weak and vulnerable against the mighty and powerful.

NLC said: “We followed with keen interest the travails of citizen Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer and activist, in the Akwa Ibom State High Court in a case of defamation brought by the Akwa Ibom State Governor which is before Justice Ekaette Obot who happens to be the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State.
“We do not believe that it serves the cause of justice and public order for Mr. Inibehe Effiong to be perceived to be punished for doing the job of representing his client.

“We also find it curious that Mr. Effiong’s lawful request for the order of the court proceedings that sentenced him be released to him was denied more than twenty days after had filed for the release even when the law provides that such a request should be granted after seven days.

“Furthermore, the fact that a journalist who was also covering the proceedings of the court the day Mr. Effiong was sentenced was also harassed by Justice Obot who had his recording device confiscated and the contents deleted and the subsequent ill-treatment of Mr. Effiong while in custody lends weight to the suspicion of organised ambush designed to intimidate and cower.”

He added: “The truth is that there is no room for vindictiveness in our laws. It is on this premise that we call on the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Honourable Justice Ekaette Obot to reverse her earlier ruling incarcerating Mr. Inibehe Effiong.”
The NLC stated that its request for the release of the lawyer was guided by the fundamental principle of justice in, “our laws that presumes an accused innocent until proven guilty.”

According to the NLC, the ordeal of Effiong also appeared to portray him as an accessory to the crime allegedly committed by his client.
“This burden becomes heavier given that the order to remand Mr. Effiong in a correctional facility even while the case is still under trial came from the state Chief Judge who sits on the case.
“Clearly, the events surrounding this case make no pretence that Mr. Effiong is up and against the mighty and powerful.”

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